Podgorica – Hotel tourist enterprise “Onogost” for a year has solved a part of great financial problems, 90 employees have sold their working places, and with the understanding of the Government of Montenegro the piled short-term obligations will be paid in the next five years. Director of “Onogost” Lav Lajovic said in an interview for “Vijesti” that after the new estimate last summer they started a repair of the company which was in critical situation, with losses, 1oo workers extra, and a debt of 3, 5 millions of euros.
Since 2005 when there were changed in management of HLT fund, the biggest individual owner of “Onogost” the administrative structure in this enterprise has been changed.
– In three big hotels “Niksic” in Sutomore, “Teuta” in Risan on the coast and “Onogost” from Niksic, and two small hotels “Boan” in Savnik, and “Trebjesa” in Niksic last year we had 55.000 overnight stays. And this year there will be 93.000 overnight stays. From that almost doubled turnover we are expecting some financial effects, so that in 2007 “Onogst” can finish the year with a positive result and to enter the zone of profitability. The plan is that until the end of the year we should begin the reconstruction of the hotel “Niksic” in Sutomore – said Lajovic, who is openly speaking about the problems in his company and in Montenegrin tourism.
In what way are you planning to free yourself from debts?
– We have recognized three possibilities. We will pay the debts with a smaller share from business profit because the facilities have been exhausted and they need to be reconstructed. The second option is to sell a part of the property, which is out of function. In Niksic and Savnik we have 7 8 facilities (cafés and markets) which we plan to sell. The third possibility is the possible additional capitalization, but it will be possible to that only after we carry out the first two steps.
Still the stocks of HTE “Onogost” at the stock market have risen a lot. How do you comment their growth having in mind the situation n the enterprise?
– When I became the director the stocks were at 0,65 cents in order for them to be traded during the last month at the price of 6,5 euros. I would say that that is an unrealistic leap, even though positive happenings in “Onogost” have surely influenced the picture that the investors have about us. Along with that, here the opinion is tha hotel enterprises are worth as much as their real estates.
People make great mistakes in that estimates all the time, and that can be seen through current privatization. We have one price of real estates in hotel keeping, and the other price in construction. The citizens should get from their brokers real information before they decide to buy.
What is the business ambience and interest of foreign guests for “Onogost” hotels?
– The greatest interest of foreigners comes from Slovenia, Russia, Germany, and Hungary. Business ambience in the pre-season has positive and negative sides. Positive tendency on the market is a great interest for Montenegro and the decrease of TAV to 7% and the tax on earnings. On the other side, as main problems I see extremely high Municipal taxes, super taxes and communal taxes, which are bigger and bigger from year to year. I think that out from the season more favorable conditions should be made for business which as a consequence would have appearance of hoteliers with more attractive prices and the presence of guests all over the year.
What do you think what should be exactly changed?
– It would be good that in the fiscal policy they have in mind the regional aspect in Montenegro. “Onogost” for example has the same conditions for business in “Teuta” in Risan, and in Savnik, where we have recently opened hotel “Boa” in which this year we will employ 15 people. For such a small municipality it is a big deal, but in the situation when there are no super tax stimulations of the state or the municipality we are simply transferring some money from the south towards the north.
In the following period I think that the fiscal policy should pay attention to the regional aspect, and the surrounding countries have a special fund for the development of undeveloped tourist areas, they even have entire programs. Also, it would be good that during the calendar year special stimulations for the pre and the post season are implemented.
Are the prices of domestic tourist products competitive?
-Today it is very expensive to come to Montenegro. The highways are bad, traveling by train is a problem, and airplane tickets are expensive. With one tour operator from Germany we have an arrangement in which the price of a plane ticket is more expensive that the 7-day arrangement in our hotel. When recently I have suggested to them to lower the price between 10 and 20% in order to stimulate the growth of the number of guests they told me that that would not have any effect because the total price of the arrangement would be insignificantly lowered.
Do you think that the solution of the problem should be looked in animation of low-cost companies?
– In Montenegro opinions on low-cost air companies are various. I know that the representatives of the Ministry of traffic and Airports of Montenegro had contacts with them. As hotelkeepers, we are very interested in that. Further decrease of the price of the hotelkeepers is limited with profitability, and in order for us to remain competitive we need cheaper flights.
Everyone in the surrounding has done that, why shouldn’t we? With cheaper flights we would not have “cheap” tourists, but serious businessman. Hotelkeepers in the interior of Montenegro, Niksic and Podgorica, who have a problem with the filling of capacities, have much bigger interest for those companies than Budva or Igalo as exclusive destinations. Low-cost air transporters would contribute the extension of the season and a much better dispersion of our offer, because Montenegro beside the sea can offer also the mountains. The fear that because of the low-cost air companies agencies and charter transporters will loose their job is not appropriate, because that was not the case anywhere. We in “Onogost” will strive for that to happen as soon as possible. The practice has proved that who comes cheaply in Montenegro spends more money in shopping.