Adriatic Hotspot – New Approaches for Attracting Winter Tourism

Over the past few decades Budva has gained a reputation of a prominent tourist destination attracting tens of thousands of visitors every summer. This small town is rather unique due to its great nature and rich Mediterranean heritage. This is toped off with some modern Balkans-style features like a relaxed atmosphere, administrative flexibility, urbanistic chaos and other issues that usually characterize societies in transition. Mainly, Budva offers something for everyone. It is a famous party-town, known as “Ibiza of the Balkans” with major regional and global stars – for example, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Gypsy Kings, Lenny Kravitz, The Prodigy – visiting local discotheques and festivals throughout a year.  Its ‘Sea Dance’ music festival is an award winning festival held at Jaz Beach. The festival has been proclaimed by the European Festivals Awards[1] in January 2015 as the ‘Best Medium Sized European festival’ of 2014.

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However, this article does not intend to provide a summary of Budva, but rather to shed light on another interesting observation. Namely, in recent years Budva has become a major hotspot for New Year’s celebrations. Major music stars from all over former Yugoslavia and beyond sing traditionally on the main square in front of the old town where thousands of people gather to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new one. Celebrations usually last couple of days, which in turn attracts tourists who decide to spend a few winter days on the Adriatic coast. Apart from the main program, many music stars usually sing in local clubs, discotheques and hotels. Entertainment offer is diverse and fits every taste.

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This year (2015/2016) the overall festive atmosphere was amazingly pleasant. More than 20,000 people gathered in front of the old town to listen to Zdravko Colic, one of the biggest music stars of the former Yugoslavia. Even bigger crowds with equal euphoria enjoyed when Croatian star Gibonni run his show on January 1.

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What was Amazing and Special?

During these festive days the overwhelming feeling that the whole region is re-united has been present everywhere in Budva. Seeing many cars from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo parked right next to each other gives another dimension to the Western Balkans, while bringing hope that new generations, who have never experienced united Yugoslavia will become united rather than divided by culture and religion.  One is certain, this will only be achieved with higher cross-border mobility, which will with time remove mental obstacles.

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What was Innovative and Cool?

  1. The classical music concert in front of the old town is rather a tradition than an innovation for Budva; however, this effort should be applauded since not many towns opt for the open-space classical music event on the 1st of January. In the first years the concert attracted a few hundreds of people, while this year approximately 3,000 people enjoyed the afternoon performance by the Mediterranean Review Orchestra.
  2. Instagram board introduced by Budva.travel has been placed on one of the squares in the old town. Many tourists have been taking their pictures behind the board and shared it with their friends on social media. Tourism organization of Budva has even suggested several hashtags. The board also mentioned capital cities from the region and urged people to send New Year’s greetings from Budva. We believe that this is a rather innovative way of destination marketing and we applaud Budva.Travel for that.

What Should be Changed?

  1. Even though, organization seemed fine, we believe that it is imperative to have a better coordination between local authorities and tourism board with local businesses. For example, the classical music event has been a great experience; however, on the edges of the main square several other cafés, like ‘Opium,’ played very loud music, which sometimes created an unpleasant mix of conflicting sounds.
  2. On the other hand, there is a never ending issue with a road infrastructure and lack of parking spaces, which is burdensome for tourists and residents alike. We urge the authorities to resolve these for the more pleasant experience.

For the rest, we give a good nine out of ten for the New Year’s Eve in Budva!

[1] http://eu.festivalawards.com