Trend data shows that mountain biking is expanding globally and especially in Europe. Given Montenegro's rugged terrain, scenic vistas and proximity to the Europe Union, it is an ideal destination. The Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Protection recognized the potential and has launched a nationwide Hiking/Biking initiative to develop this segment of the tourism market. The current infrastructure and services available to mountain bike tourists are very limited. There are no designated biking trails in Montenegro and existing mountain tracks are of poor quality and are not well marked or maintained. There is also a lack of information on the expectations of mountain bike tourists. To better understand the potential for mountain biking tourism in Montenegro, CSTI, together with the National Tourism Organization (NTO) and members of the Allgemeine Deutsche Fahrrad-Club (ADFC), a German Cycling Association, conducted a 14-day pilot bike tour culminating in a conference of stakeholders.
Beginning in early 2007, CSTI and the NTO began researching potential roads and trails around the country which met basic criteria for mountain biking tourism. Once tentative routes were selected, CSTI identified tourism service providers interested in participating in a pilot mountain biking initiative. CSTI worked closely with these service providers in refining the biking routes and adapting services to meet the needs of the ADFC cyclists. For example, following the trail assessment, the Zajovic family from the mountain village of Ceranica Gora expressed an interest in hosting the cyclists. Over the summer, CSTI worked with them on hospitality skills and helped them to improve their service standards for food and accommodation. In total, CSTI engaged more than 32 tourism service providers in preparing for and executing the tour.
Over two weeks, the cyclists covered more than 700 kilometres. The three-day conference that followed brought together key stakeholders to discuss the development of Montenegro as a mountain biking destination. The organizers sought to identify the current strengths and weaknesses of the mountain biking infrastructure and services and to identify solutions. All participants shared the conclusion that the foundation of mountain biking tourism is high quality trails and signs, followed by adequate safety services and tourism products tailored to meet the specific needs of mountain bikers. CSTI plans to follow up the tour and conference with tangible steps including designing mountain-biking tours for northern Montenegro, supporting existing mountain biking guides in improving their services, and continuing to work with entrepreneurs - like the Zajovic family in Ceranica Gora - to expand their ability to serve visitors.