For last two days, international media recalled Mr Munk as a successful businessman, a Barrick gold founder, and a philanthropist. To the people of Montenegro, however, he'll remain an ambiguous figure who brought an entirely new concept into the tourism industry of the country by transforming a former Soviet-era naval base in Tivat into a five-star resort and yacht marina. He described his vision of the Montenegrin tourism development strategy that should target high-end travelers in one of his interviews in 2016:
I believe Montenegro cannot be competitive if it focuses on mass tourism, since it does not have the size or infrastructure required, nor the financial resources to build it. Mass tourism also means excessive construction of infrastructure that would endanger the natural beauty and ecological purity that is one of Montenegro’s most important attributes. The Montenegrin Government and tourism entrepreneurs need to think how to target the right audience – high-end customers travel all year round and will be happy to invest here if they continue to find an unspoiled country rather than one that is gearing up for large-scale tourism.
(Luxury Collection magazine)
The debates on this topic continue to happen today, even though it has been ten years since the Porto Montenegro project began. The supporters of Mr Munk's opinion quote the figures of increased Tivat municipality budgets thanks to the new berths and luxury village properties, as well as the list of annual donations under the Porto Montenegro initiative. And the opponents of his theory proclaim the Arsenal naval base sale as a shameful deal enriching only a few people and ruining part of the historical heritage of the Boka bay.
However, looking at the last decade, it's impossible not to mark significant changes (for good or bad – decide for yourself) in the Tivat environment as well as in everyday life of its citizens and guests. Picking the proper industry, independent from the rises and falls of the world markets, Munk brought the most beautiful, high-tech creatures to the shores of Montenegro – large luxury yachts. He believed that „Montenegro is uniquely poised to play a leading role in the yachting industry – with a great nautical tradition, an excellent location in the middle of the Mediterranean with easy access to all the popular yacht cruising destinations, a naturally protected harbor and an international airport nearby“.
Today, the scenic view of the new Tivat marina with white masts, rows of sails and brightly polished, elegant yachts attracts people from all over the country and makes a traditional evening town quay walk even more pleasant. Busy cafe terraces and children rolling around newly renovated squares brought the once neglected town a feeling of life. Jazz concerts and supercar shows, new bank offices using an electronic queue, modern menus at restaurants, and healthy food stores, of course, go hand in hand with the property price increase and an inadequate number of parking lots. The process of development usually takes place in jumps, yet it is better than stagnating or degrading.
The development of the luxury village which now has six residential buildings and a 5-star hotel surrounding the marina has created a new, comfortable and attractive city quart which by itself became a tourist destination hosting thousands of tourists all year round. Of course, it took ten years of almost unceasing construction works that will for sure continue for next several years, and perhaps cause further inconveniences, but the city will receive something pretty in return. The inspiring Porto Montenegro project naturally accumulated some smaller investors in the Tivat area, bringing contemporary construction standards and design approaches which together dynamically changes both the map and the visual appearance of the city.
Whatever the attitude towards this project and the high-end tourism concept, it is evident that it set the direction of regional development - and the one who started these changes was Mr Munk. The founder of the Porto Montenegro project and a homeowner in one of the first buildings in the village, Mr Munk was a very modest chief and client with no special requirements. His short summer visits usually passed without much fanfare, almost unnoticed by others, proving his gold miner life credo – „it’s about what you give, not what you take out“.
All photos by @Yulia Mengo