Country to Watch: Montenegro

With Montenegro on track to enter the EU in the coming years, we expect the country’s passport power to see a significant boost.

When it comes to increasing passport power and mobility, Montenegro and the greater Balkan region have incredible potential. Looking at a map of the European Union, there is a gap between EU member states and Greece. Within this void, you have most former Yugoslavian countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia – which will likely all join the EU in the future.

 

Montenegro is leading the pack

The country of roughly 642,000 boasts one of the fastest growing tourism economies globally, welcoming over 2 million travelers per year pre-COVID.

Tourism accounts for over 20% of Montenegro’s GDP, with a revenue of US$1.224 million in December 2018, which was a growth of 10.3% year-on-year. Much of this has been driven by investments into tourism infrastructure and by the end of 2019, investors had already poured US$1.65 billion into 10 of the country’s most important tourism projects.

Looking at the bigger picture, Montenegro is making moves to strengthen its economy post-Covid. The World Bank has approved a US$3.7 million financing loan to strengthen rural development and agriculture projects in Montenegro that will enhance the country’s EU candidacy. And, in June 2020, the International Monetary Fund provided an emergency loan of US$83.7 million to help the country weather the effects of the decline in tourism due to the pandemic.

In addition, the country is transitioning towards a market economy that should see more favorable conditions for investments in private sector development. As a result of all of this, Montenegro’s GDP is forecast to grow 6% in 2021, and 4.6% in 2022.

 

A unique getaway in the Adriatic coast

With arrivals expected to rebound after the pandemic, the country continues to invest in ambitious real estate and tourism projects that cater to an elite market. Many investors have their sights set on the northern region, where there is excellent potential for coastal holidays in the summer and skiing in the winter.

Among the most significant developments is the US$338 million Blue Horizon project, a vast 200-room luxury resort village on the northern coast, close to Porto Montenegro, a luxurious marina village and superyacht port. There’s also Sveti Marko Island, a six-star spa resort in the Bay of Kotor; Portonovi, which will include the One&Only Portonovi hotel, a beach club, and a superyacht marina; and Lustica Bay, an expansive luxury hotel, golf and marina complex on the Adriatic.

In Kolašin, an internationally renowned ski resort town in the mountains of northern Montenegro, there is also significant activity. Setting course to completion in 2022 is Bjelasica 1450 – a four-star ski resort exclusive to Montenegro’s Citizenship by Investment Program via Arton Capital – as well as several five-star developments to decorate the pristine mountainous region; Hotel Breza, the Kolašin Westin Ski Resort, and Four Points by Sheraton.

In addition, Montenegro is expected to see better connectivity, thanks to the launch of new flights into the country from major European cities like Paris, Zurich, Berlin, Brussels, Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Oslo, and Stockholm. There are also a growing number of housing development projects in popular areas of Montenegro. These include Porto Montenegro in the Bay of Kotor; Dukley Gardens on the Zavala Peninsula; and DOM XXI near the Budva Old Town.

 

Most popular CIP in Europe

Given Montenegro’s growth potential, the country has one of the most popular CIPs in Europe. Before the pandemic, Passport Index gave Montenegro a mobility score of 124 in 2019, a significant increase from 102 in 2015. Although that number plummeted to 71 during the pandemic, we expect it to recover quickly once travel resumes. And the passport will only become more powerful once Montenegro becomes an EU member state, as early as 2025, and enjoy visa-free access to over 160 countries around the world.

At that point, it will be only a matter of time before other Balkan countries follow suit. These countries have long developed strong trade and diplomatic links with Europe. What’s more, the EU has already expressed a commitment to gradually integrate the Balkan states – Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania are already EU membership candidates.

We are watching Montenegro, and the rest of the Balkans closely, as it offers excellent business opportunities, a beautiful outdoor holiday destination and soon, access to the EU’s world of visa-free travel.

Have you read the 2021 Passport Index Report? 
As countries progressively begin to reopen their borders and renew visa bans, the 2020 Passport Index Report reveals what rock-bottom for global mobility looked like during a worldwide pandemic, which countries remained at the top of the ranks and which slipped far below, as well as what to expect moving forward as the planet experiences a global reset. 

Find the full report, here.

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