The charismatic businessman and investor, Petros Stathis, talks to about his love for Montenegro and vision to keep the Adriatic centre on the world stage for investment and as a visitor destination
When businessman and entrepreneur, Petros Stathis, talks about Montenegro, his eyes light up.
“This is like my adopted home. I love this country. I want more people to realise the potential it has and how much more it could be.
“This country has it all. Majestic mountains, breath taking beaches and wonderful people. This is a place for people to visit and for businesses to invest and we want to play a part on that story.”
The owner of several Aman luxury resorts is particularly proud of the Aman Sveti Stefan, world renowned as the crown jewel of Montenegro’s Budva Riviera coastline.
With its crystal-clear waters, miles of beaches and backdrop of pine-cloaked mountains, the resort was reincarnated as a luxury hotel in the 1950s, during which time it attracted such members of the original jet set as Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren.
Refurbished 10 years ago, the Aman Resort has now recaptured its former
glory and in 2014 hosted the wedding of tennis superstar Novak Djokovic.
The spectacularly successful recreation of the Sveti Stefan resort is principally thanks to the vision and dynamism of Petros Stathis, who, since meeting his Montenegrin wife more than a decade ago, has made the economic regeneration of this small Balkan state his mission.
The Sveti Stefan resort has been central to that goal. In 2008 when Stathis became its co-owner, the resort was already in the process of restoring and upgrading its 58 guest rooms, cottages and suites.
Under the ownership of the Russian billionaire Vladislav Doronin, who purchased Aman Resorts (now Aman Group) in 2014, the partnership has proved to be so successful that Stathis subsequently invested in two more projects, Aman Cavtat in Croatia and Aman Venice on the city’s Grande Canal. Aman Venice opened in 2013 and has already become a benchmark for hoteliers worldwide thanks to its unique aesthetics and architecture.
Stathis has been steadily expanding his business interests and is now involved in banking, media, real estate, hospitality and the food industries. Quality remains his signature trait; there is a branch of the highly fashionable Nobu franchise at Sveti Stefan, and Stathis is currently developing a partnership with other premium brands.
The resort embodies almost everything that is special about tourism in the country. “Because Montenegro is not a big country, I believe that it needs to concentrate on high-end tourism and avoid the pitfalls of mass tourism that have blighted parts of Greece,” says Stathis.
“Tourism is one of the main drivers of the country’s economy and its future growth will depend on our success in attracting quality rather than quantity.”
The number of tourists who visited Montenegro in 2017 increased by nearly 20%. Even more heartening are predictions by the World Travel & Tourism Council that the sector’s contribution to GDP will grow from 20% in 2018 to 27.9% by 2028.
Better yet, this growth will take place within the context of an ever-strengthening economy. In a report published last October, Euromoney decalred Montenegro is quickly climbing the magazine’s global risk rankings, enjoying its sixth year of uninterrupted economic expansion with an annual average growth rate of 3.7%.
One reason to believe that this growth rate is sustainable is the Montenegrin authorities’ recognition of the need to improve the country’s infrastructure.
Stathis was delighted by the government’s decision last summer to put up for bid two 30-year contracts for the maintenance and management of the international airports at Tivat and Podgorica.
Meanwhile, a 100-mile highway linking the Port of Bar to Serbia is being built through some of the most rugged and inhospitable terrain in Europe.
“The infrastructure challenges that have adversely impacted the tourism industry are slowly being overcome,” says Stathis.
Stathis’s Universal Capital Bank (UCB) was responsible for extending one of the largest loans in Montenegrin history to the owners of the Porto Montenegro project, which has seen a former Yugoslav Army military base transformed into a superyacht marina to rival Monaco.
The loan is a clear signal that UCB is becoming the bank of choice for investors looking to invest in Montenegro and the wider region.
“UCB tripled its profits last year, and we are looking forward to attracting a lot more foreign investors as the number of opportunities for them increases,” Stathis says.
“The banking system as a whole is becoming increasingly advanced as more and more international regulations are introduced. We are in a strong position and prepared for further growth.”