Tourism Montenegro just received an important approval by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) .

Montenegro is now one of 100 destinations in the world awarded the Safe Travels Stamp for Destinations. Aleksandra Gardasevic-Slavuljica, told eTurboNeww this was remarkable since the country is going through the peak of the Coronavirus epidemic.

It appears the intended meaning what the Safe Travels Stamp should symbolize has been lost in translation, or is not spelled out clearly by its issuer. Here is why.

Montenegro just had elections and the change of power is being debated.

The election resulted in a victory for the opposition parties and the fall from power of the ruling DPS, which had ruled the country since the introduction of the multi-party system in 1990. On 31 August, the leaders of three opposition coalitions, For the Future of Montenegro, Peace is Our Nation and In Black and White, agreed to form an expert government, and to continue to work on the European Union accession process.

The Safe Travel stamp discussion is now in the center of a fresh domestic controversy.

Aleksandra Gardasevic-Slavuljica, the author of this opinion article. Aleksandra is also the president of the Balkan region of the US-based discussion among tourism professionals in 118 countries.

Tourism is an industry that depends on the reputation of the destination. We are witnesses that Montenegro has lost the reputation and trust by tourists.

It was an illusion that Montenegro is a prestigious destination because our tourist potential has never been fully exploited.

COVID made everything obvious. With COVID, there was NKT, the National Organization responsible for the crisis. Then there is the National Tourism Organization (NTO), after that there was corona-free, then corona-boom, and finally – there was a breakdown of the destination’s reputation.

That is why we urgently need a new, respectable NKT, which the citizens will trust. And the new NTO, which will be a professional promoter of a rebranded Montenegrin destination. These are the preconditions for the recovery of tourism. Here’s why:

Only a state that cares about the health of its citizens can have a responsible attitude towards tourists.

Only an honest communication strategy promises prestige and reputation.

A healthy and satisfied population is a prerequisite for safe tourism. Currently, Montenegro is not a safe tourist destination.

To add to the irony, the National Tourism Organization received a “Safe Travels” certificate from the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) just these days. The purpose of using this stamp is to promote safe travel during COVID-19 and to enable tourists to easily identify safe tourist zones. The sign stands out on websites, social networks, facilities, which makes it easier for tourists to choose a safe destination.

The process for obtaining the Safe Travels label is as follows: The WTTC provides destinations or stakeholders with a security protocol. Protocols are in fact pre-written documents. When the protocols are agreed upon, the WTTC awards them the “Safe Travels” stamp. The starting point of the WTTC is to trust national authorities because it considers them responsible and reputable institutions. I guess that’s taken for granted..

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Thus, Montenegrin tourism, at the height of the epidemic, was adorned with the trademark “Safe Travel”.

In Montenegro, this important reality must have been gotten lost in translation.

Therefore, the NTO now has an instrument for branding Montenegro as a safe tourist destination. Whether he will have the courage to do so at this point remains to be seen. But that’s not all.

The National Tourist Office has not only become the owners of this trademark, but has gained authorization to further distribute the stamp. In this regard, the NTO has sent an invitation to hotels, restaurants, airlines, to apply and obtain the “Safe Travels Stamp.”. If the campaign continues, it may happen that, while the crown is burning, Montenegro will be branded as a safe destination. This is where the problem arises.

Promoting safe tourism and safe travel, at a time when we are recognized as one of the most infectious country in the region, would be an unforgivable compromise of the destination.

I hope that the NTO will become aware of its responsibility and that at this point it will suspend the promotion of the “Safe Travel” brand. The WTTC label should be used, but only when realistic conditions are met and when some “healthier” times come. Until then, let them work on preparing for such conditions.

Therefore, the possibility of creating a national certificate should be considered as a trademark that could be recognized as “Montenegro – Responsible Destination”.

Responsible, not safe, because safe destinations and safe travel do not exist today. The national certification body should be composed of experts from the NTO and the Ministry of Health. Yes – experts.

The WTTC certificate “Safe Travels Stamp” does not have a system of continuous control, but counts on the responsibility of the NTO. In contrast, the application of national certificates implies strict control over the implementation of the protocol. Such protocols are not just a letter on paper, but “living” and binding documents that are subject to change.

Only when Montenegrin tourism is branded with its own logo, guests who trust us will stay in hotels. It will be a message to tourists that we are a responsible host and that we are ready to welcome them.

The certificate marked “Montenegro – a responsible destination” can be a new Montenegrin brand, which will strengthen the reputation and restore the trust of tourists. In addition, the WTTC and any other representative label are welcome.

That is why I appeal not to allow Montenegro to be branded as a safe destination during the transition of political power after our recent election to avoid a further outbreak of the epidemic. The reason is simple. Montenegro is not a safe destination at this time.

Tourists would not forgive us for such deception.

Gloria Guevaras, CEO of WTTC told eTurboNews independently:

“The stamp has nothing to do with cases or current a COVID situation. It’s about protocols. The stamp is just a recognition that protocols are at the same level as the global private sector.
The stamp has nothing to do with risk or the current state of a destination. Every country manages its own situation. Destinations open or close based on their risk assessment indicators WTTC doesn’t measure that .”