Since 2008, Porto Montenegro has offered a life less ordinary for visitors looking to discover luxury in authentic surroundings. But today, this exclusive setting is increasingly being chosen to host events to remember, or even as a place to call home.
The scene is idyllic. “Imagine you’re cruising the calm, sparkling waters of Boka Bay; the surrounding mountains offering a stunning backdrop. You pass a waterfront restaurant that’s been run by the same family for generations, so you berth at the pier and the father comes out to greet you. Inside, the mother is preparing this morning’s catch while the son or daughter shows you to your table at the water’s edge as they explain what’s on today’s menu.”
Danilo Kalezic, Senior PR and Marketing Manager at Porto Montenegro, describes the type of authentic experience that has been drawing travellers to Montenegro’s shores since the country achieved independence in 2006. Visitors who are inspired to witness the majesty of the Bay of Kotor, as Boka Bay is commonly referred to, for themselves and to soak up a rich history and proud culture that until quite recently was unknown to most of the world. It is no surprise that terms like ‘paradise’, ‘jewel’ and ‘pearl’ are often used to describe a corner of the earth that the British poet Lord Byron called ‘the most beautiful encounter between land and sea.’
There is no doubting Montenegro’s pedigree as a tourist destination and, since the opening of Porto Montenegro in Tivat, a superyacht hotspot. Owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) since 2016, this luxury marina complex built on the site of a formal naval base has injected more than a sprinkling of glamour to a coastline already blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and charm.
But now, for business and increasingly as a year-round home base, Montenegro, and more specifically Porto Montenegro, are coming of age, and a growing number of MICE clients and other event organisers are recognising the distinct advantages of choosing this destination that has it all. “Agencies are starting to realise that we are the perfect venue for their conferences and events,” Danilo tells me, explaining that Montenegro is now seen as a refreshing alternative to locations such as Monaco and Cannes.
An Environment to Inspire Innovation and Growth
“Here you really do have everything you need, in a setting that can’t help but motivate,” he says. As the deepest fjord in this part of the world, Boka Bay is protected from bad weather so is a safe port for yachts. Along with the marina’s 450 berths, the 5 star Regent Porto Montenegro hotel in the heart of the village is set to expand with the opening of a new wing next year. “We also have a lovely auditorium which can seat 560 for conferences and theatre style productions, while the Naval Heritage Collection Museum allows small businesses to open pop-up offices,” he continues.
A former sawmill, this conference venue also houses the Innovation Centre, a co-working space designed to welcome Porto Montenegro’s growing entrepreneurial and start-up scene. “The idea behind this is to bring together the free-thinking achievers who are drawn here and to offer a place that allows for luxury inspiration and holistic thoughts… something smarter and more meaningful than just live, work and play,” he continues. Danilo tells me that here they like to call it “a life less ordinary.”
Along with traditional luxuries, such as the waterfront residences connected to the marina, yacht brokerages, upscale restaurants and designer boutiques, it’s clear that Porto Montenegro is ensuring that the millennial market isn’t ignored. “This is a generation that is really hands on and they are not as engaged with all the services that the so-called ‘old luxury’ offers. Instead, fast service, the capability to work wherever you are, and the feeling of being part of a community rather than simply a guest, are what is important,” he explains.
Danilo calls 2018 a benchmark for the serious events hosted at Porto Montenegro. From the first ever Hackathon, to luxury car and watch premieres (Swiss brand Hublot unveiled its limited edition Classic Fusion Chronograph Porto Montenegro watch at a VIP party at the Porto Montenegro Yacht Club infinity pool) it was a busy summer. Other events included the inaugural International Fashion Festival hosted at the Synchro, a newly opened waterfront venue in the shadow of an ex-WWII submarine, and big-name music acts such as Clean Bandit. “We are now able to host all the big events,” Danilo says proudly.
Of course, yachting regattas and other sailing events dominate the social calendar, from The Yacht Week floating festival to the Thousand Islands Race and even a MYBA Pop-up Superyacht Show. Sunseeker, Azimut Benetti and Dominator are three yacht builders who have a base in the village and Danilo hopes these partnerships will see new models launched at Porto Montenegro in the near future.
“We are at a point where today, with our partners around the country, Porto Montenegro really is able to cater to all your event needs. From a great photographer to a wedding planner who can organise a ceremony on one of the islands or a marketing agency that can support you with all your technical requirements, it’s now all here,” he says. And, if any further incentive was still needed: “when compared to Europe, the prices here are still very attractive. I’m seeing a lot of agencies from around the world taking advantage of the seven per cent nautical tax and the zero per cent tax on yacht provisioning and fuel.”
Along with the option of arriving by sea, three airports are within close proximity of Porto Montenegro: Tivat is just five minutes away, Dubrovnik in Croatia 45 minutes and Podgorica, the capital, 90 kilometres. “Flight connections for the business community in Europe and the GCC are only improving every year,” Danilo says.
The reasons that are contributing to the growth of Porto Montenegro as a MICE and event destination are also seeing the village become more attractive as a home base. A smaller version of Monaco, a place it can’t help but be compared to, Porto Montenegro offers a stunning setting, luxury infrastructure, a glamorous social life, and security. Yet, unlike the Mediterranean principality, where older properties rub shoulders with newer buildings, at Porto Montenegro the beautifully crafted waterfront real estate – from spacious studios to awe-inspiring penthouses with rooftop terraces and sublime views – are all new residences and offer access to an Owners Club and lifestyle team, residents-only pool and gym, reception service and 24-hour concierge.
“A lot of homeowners do choose to live here permanently as Montenegro is very safe,” agrees Danilo. He explains that while one parent may commute to European centres such as Paris or Moscow during the week for work, the rest of the family remains. Many children are enrolled at the KSI (Knightsbridge Schools International) Montenegro, the first International Baccalaureate (IB) school in the country.
Like Monaco, the mix of nationalities that have made Porto Montenegro home creates a cultural vibrancy. “The community we have here is quite diverse,” he explains. “Ex-Yugoslavia, Russia and the CIS, the GCC of course, but also Australians, British and Americans. This year we have seen an increased interest from Germany and the Benelux countries as well.”
Danilo, who lives a couple of minutes outside the village and spends much of his time there, describes the village out of season as “dynamic,” a time when the residents “can focus on themselves and the community rather than supervising the tourists.” Tuesdays are movie nights, Thursdays are bowling and pizza. Every activity you could wish for is at your fingertips: tennis courts, gym classes, dance lessons, even archery practice. “Head inland for ten minutes and you’ll find the most amazing hiking trails through forests,” he says. Important dates such as Christmas are celebrated together. “Porto Montenegro is also a great place to see in the New Year,” he assures me.
The population is also boosted by the yachts that have chosen the marina as their permanent base, attracted by the individually formulated berthing and homeport solutions Porto Montenegro can offer vessels up to 250m LOA. In winter, the three hundred or so crew who spend the off-season here are able to undertake further studies at the Warsash Superyacht Academy training facility on site, and are treated to weekend breaks in Belgrade or chalet stays in the ski resorts three hours north of Tivat, all organised by Porto Montenegro.
What’s clear, however, is that this is just the beginning. Danilo says that they are only one-third of the way through the plans they have. While he’s unable to elaborate too much, he does tell me: “We’re launching a new mixed-used development set back from the water which, along with more affordable residences, will house a cinema and a smaller hotel.” Also in the pipeline are further leisure and entertainment facilities, yacht club residences, more dedicated retail spaces,plenty of green living and communal areas, and a number of new village clubs and societies including the Porto Montenegro Croquet & Social Club.Coupled with the Government’s recently announced Citizenship-by-Investment project, a new initiative designed to offer residency and citizenship to foreign investors who purchase a property of a certain value in the country, the future is definitely bright at Porto Montenegro.