[INTERVIEW] Dr.Aleksandar Stjepčević, mayor of Kotor, PRO.PR Vision City Award winner
Kotor functions as coherent community, full of diversity that formes priceless value. Besides this award, we must point out Lonely Planet Award by referent Tourist organization which placed Kotor in 10 destination to visit in 2016.
What does PRO.PR Vision City Award mean to you?
PRO.PR Vision City Award is of significant value to City of Kotor. Awards and acknowledgements of this kind represent confirmation that we are building good image of the city. They provide personal and collective satisfaction and are stimulus for continuing this steps in even more stronger pace in order to promote real value of Kotor. Besides pleasure that we feel because of this recognition, this awards also means responsibility, constant care and investing effort and all to justify expectations of citizens, visitors and organizations that through awards value our hard work and success. It is important to mention that PRO.PR Vision City Award is for all citizens of Kotor and for city institutions and companies that work synchronized and harmonized and form significant chain links. Thanks to them, City of Kotor functions as coherent community, full of diversity that formes priceless value. Besides this award, we must point out Lonely Planet Award by referent Tourist organization which placed Kotor in 10 destination to visit in 2016.
Which investment projects are you a part of?
Municipality of Kotor and its responsible local self-government on several occasions participated in investment fairs where they presented investment offer consisting of 10 greenfield and 9 brownfield locations intended for investment and valorisation. Among them I accentuate construction of 2 marinas containing 150 boat mooring with high category hotel capacities, building of hotel complexes on Platamuni, Bigova, Škaljari, Prčanj, Stari Grad and Perast, Glavatičići golf course construction which in accordance with Strategy of golf development in Montenegro was evaluated as best planned location as series of reconstruction related to authentic baroque palaces Mazarović and Visković plus Sveti Križ fortress in Perast and putting them into function. Fact that exactly VIP marina with hotel capacities at the location of nautical and tourist center near old and urban part of Kotor and Goražda fortress are in the focus of Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, with emphasis on issuing a public call for longterm lease of marina location in this year, makes me really glad. According to the promise made by Ministry and Secretariat for development projects of Montenegro, we expect that Kotor will in this year get investor which it deserves. With building of this VIP marina that is complementary, not in conflict with existing Port of Montenegro, system that contains these two and marina Bigovo, nautical-yachting tourism will be worldclass, as befits Montenegro. Besides listed locations, Municipality of Kotor cames forth to legally meet investors on a daily basis, especially when it comes to construction of missing touristic capacities at locations in possesion of investors. There is also support for building adrenaline, adventure and aqua parks, for which Municipality created planned preconditions and is in expectation of world renown investors. Conceptual design of the cable car was presented in March, for which production of main project is in progress. With realization of this project Kotor city walls, as priceless city resource, would be valuated and put in function of tourism and missing parking space would also be constructed. Kotor became world famous cruising destination so I expect that procedure of granting concessions for management of Port of Kotor will end in this year. This will not only enable continuation of started projects of building pylons and anchorage, which will upgrade destination quality and safety, but also bring Kotor closer to the goal of being leading Adriatic cruising destination. Priority investment for our citizens and tourists is solving problem of traffic jams in the city center, that is building bypass. I have to remind that Kotor is, as city under the protection of UNESCO, specifically positioned. World Heritage Commitee demands that we carry out Impact assessment on cultural heritage for transport connection of Veriga and Kotor bypass, and that we deliver all project proposals to World Heritage Centre, before any realization obligations. Directorate of Kotor adheres to that, so after first phase of this study, next step is forming expert team of native and foreign proffesionals whose task is to finalize this study.
What would you as a mayor like to accomplish in your mandate?
Considering that my mandate ends in less than six months, it is hard to answer this question. It is easier to say what have I accomplished in previous 17 months when my work was based on preparation of documentation, so that when investors come knocking on door, they can start the legal procedure of location assignment within few days. Municipality of Kotor's priority is full valorization of existing capacities with obligatory note of sustainability and not property sale only for money because Municipality should implement all plans, especially spatially planned ones and for that to achieve we need investors who build capacities, not resellers. By the end of April at the Municipality of Kotor's site a digital guide for investment inspired by European guides will be available. In this guide investors will be able to find out detailed information about every location in the Kotor area intended for investment. In this way we will contribute to speeding-up the communication process, all the information will be public and systematized and availability as a first precondition will help with reduction of business barriers. This approach increases missing capacities, creates new touristic offer, increases employment and GDP per capita and by this Kotor is coming close to the goal of being leading Adriatic tourist destination. Projects that I started (some are completed and some are going to be completed by the end of this year) are main project of the cable car leading to San Giovanni fortress and accompanied by solving of parking space in the city, „Nikša Bućin“ pool reconstruction, Visković and Mazarović palace reconstruction project, fortress Sveti Križ reconstruction project, development of digital investment base and the start of the pilot project of introduction of liner sea traffic by solar powered speedboats, whose realization is expected in this year with UNDP support. From all the above you can see that I am dedicated to creating preconditions for faster and efficient attraction of foreign capital with elimination of all shortcomings encountered by investors.
Can you tell us about Kotor through numbers, population, tourist arrivals…?
The territory of Municipality of Kotor is 335km2. In this area, through last list of population from 2011, lives 22.601 citizens. In June 2000, Boka Kotorska as the only fjord at the Mediterranean, was listed as one of the 25 most beautiful fjords in the world. At the third session of the World Heritage Committee by UNESCO on 26 October 1979 cultural and historical area of Kotor was registered at the List of World Cultural Heritage because of unique cultural values. Beside others, protected area of Kotor includes old urban core of cities like Kotor, Risna and Perasta and all settlements along the coast from Verigo to Verigo. By Kotor's entrance in the World Cultural Heritage List, this area represents a part of universal cultural and natural value within 830 points of planet Earth that belong to the whole mankind. Preseason in Kotor started very well. We expect that the following season will be even more successful than previous. Fact that Lonely Planet ranked Kotor first in the list of cities that must be visited in 2016, greatly helped to success of preseason, as well as PRO.PR Vision City Award. By 1 March 1.726 tourists visited Kotor and reached number of 5.946 overnight stays. Comparing to the last year, number of tourists in this year increased for 3,57%, as well as overnight stays that increased for 4,35%. Excursion tourism achieved great numbers, too. Through the first three months of the year, 9.833 excursionists visited Kotor, which is 30% more visits than this time last year. I expect this trend to continue all through the season. Traffic in the port of Kotor has also increased comparing with the last season. In the first three months 19 ships has sailed in the port, which means 46% more than last year while number of passengers increased 9 times. I think it is realistic to expect extremely successful touristic season. Kotor is in constant focus of foreign media. Tourist organization of Kotor significantly invested in promotion through fair presentations and all different kinds of promotion. Special online campaign is carried out in the Great Britain market. Considering new air lines from London and Manchester to Tivat, this market is recognized as significant. By MONSTAT data 74.964 tourists stayed and 358.609 made overnight stays in Kotor in 2015. There has been many changes made in legislation dealing with precise registration of visitors. Because of the new Law on residence registration we record larger number of visits and overnight stays than last year. We think that shows lack of quality work in the past years, as many unregistered tourists. This season is much better, we record increased number of guests and in the next year we will have reliable statistics. When it comes to excursional visits, this segment of touristic activity records increasement of few percent every year. Last year Kotor visited 321.857 excursionists, which is 2% more than previous year. Largest number of excursionist came from Great Britain (18,31%), USA (11,52%), France (11,34%), Russia (10,36%), Germany (7,19%), Turkey (5,37%), Poland (4,79%), China (4,78%), Spain (4,34%), Japan (3,68%), who make 82% of all excursionists. Remaining 18% came from Korea, Italy, Bulgaria, Denmark, Taiwan, Greece. We expect for excursion season to last throughout the whole year, admittedly at lesser extent, considering that we have announced visits from Japan, China, other Asian and Scandinavian countries. 412 cruisers sailed in the port of Kotor during 2015 , which is 16% more than last year. Number of cruiser passengers also increased to 442.029, 42% more than previous year. During 2015 1.567 yachts with 7096 passengers sailed in the port of Kotor. After Dubrovnik and Venice, Kotor is third Adriatic port according to traffic of tourist boats and the eighth Mediterranean spot according to passengers numbers. From 1 January to 15 October 2015 Kotor city walls visited 92 000 people, 26% more than last year.
Where do you see Kotor in five years?
Kotor is very actual city and it will be in five or ten years. City filled with cultural and historical heritage and beautiful tradition that year after year becomes richer. Kotor and its Municipality lies on territory made by 60% of state cultural heritage. Patronage of UNESCO represents key part in valorization of these cultural, historical and architectural heritage. Kotor is a city of every generation and group. Specific evidence is multicultural community that makes Kotor what it is – city of diversity that forms rich cultural image. I think that Kotor will in the next five years even more open up to elite and transit tourism. Lonely Planet and PRO.PR Vision City Awards support this theory.