Source: eKapija | Thursday, 23.03.2023.| 00:42
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Nikola Milic, founder and CEO at HG Casa del Mare – After the success in Montenegro, we want to open hotels across the region

Nikola Milic
Nikola Milic (Photo: Casa del Mare)
Their story began as the family business affair back when they opened their first hotel in 2009. Today Casa del Mare is a hotel group which has five hotels in one of the prettiest bays in the world and ambitions to open new facilities in Montenegro and wider. Thanks to the authentic ambiance of their hotels, the family atmosphere they nurture but also the unique approach to each guest they have become a recognizable brand in the region.

As Nikola Milic, the founder and CEO at HG Casa del Mare says in his interview with eKapija, everything they do is intended to represent Montenegro and Montenegrin tourism in the best light. They have invested a lot of effort, love and energy into developing this business, and the fact that he and his wife were building a family along with the company gives them a special pleasure.

Fourteen years on, Casa del Mare has several dozen regular team members and up to 200 employees during the height of the season. This hotel groups consists of five boutique hotel in the Kotor Bay, and we are opening the first Casa de Mare hotel in Budva Riviera this summer.

Nikola Milic with family
Nikola Milic with family (Photo: Casa del Mare)

eKapija: What is so specific about the Casa del Mare brand? Are the hotels open throughout the year and what experience do they provide to guests?

– When you talk to our guests, if you look at the comments on the Booking platform or on our social networks, one characteristic of all our hotels is unanimously emphasized by our guests, is the friendly, almost family-like atmosphere and service. The Casa del Mare team is not only here to make sure that our guests` vacation is comfortable, but also to anticipate what could make that vacation even better, more beautiful, more relaxed. How to provide guests with something that is good for them and that they might not have expected. A small number of guests and a wide range of the team enables this personal relationship with the guest, and that is why each of our hotels is a high category, four and five stars, and each of them has a wellness and spa, and I would especially single out the spa center of the Casa del Mare hotel Mediterraneo, whose unique, intimate spa center attracts guests all year round.

I would also like to point out Mediterraneo`s potential for conferences and other circumstances, because the hotel, has the best technical and logistical capacities for such a thing of all of our hotels. All of our hotels are located in attractive locations nearby, and far enough from the hustle and bustle of the city, and some of them also have direct access to the beach.

eKapija: How hard it was to build a domestic brand, taking into account the announcement that many global hotel chains are coming to Montenegro or are already here? How much is their arrival significant for the country and to what extent does that present a challenge for you and other domestic hotel groups?

It is absolutely not a challenge, but in that, we at Casa del Mare see only support for the market in many aspects. Firstly, we are no longer alone in educating staff to work in high-category hotels, secondly, those chains also bring some guests who might need longer to discover Montenegro as a destination. In the end, the more experiences like this, the higher the level of service and offer in tourism, the more an ecosystem is created that brings benefits to the average Montenegrin citizen and business. Of course, the greater the competition, the more complicated the job. But, as in everything, so in this case, if you work diligently and with dedication, the development of the market can only go in your favor, and the results will not be lacking.

Casa del Mare Mediterraneo
Casa del Mare Mediterraneo (Photo: Casa del Mare)

eKapija: Apart from the hotel group that consists of five hotels, you have also established a hotel management company. What services do you provide to your clients?

– Last year, we finally fulfilled our desire and intention to form a "white label" hotel management company, Casa Hospitality Management, which handles all phases of hotel projects and their management. With this new business model, we want to make the accumulated knowledge and experience of us and our team in the field of tourism and catering available to investors who want to create new value in our country. Bearing in mind the numerous projects that we have already started, as well as those that are still in the planning phase, by all accounts, the decision to take this step was the right one.

eKapija: You have recently announced the opening of the first hotel in Budva, and it is already known that you will also be managing the Wulfenia hotel in Kolasin. Can you tell us more on these projects and whether you are planning opening another hotel in Montenegro?

– Hotel Wulfenia in Kolasin is a condo hotel and it will be our first hotel in the north of Montenegro, which is a special challenge and a great pleasure for us. The hotel will consist of 60 hotel units, and will include a spa and wellness center, as well as a unique restaurant concept, which combines the best of the Montenegrin north with the many years of culinary experience of our chefs. We expect Wulfenia to open its doors in 2024.

This summer, we are opening Casa del Mare Mangata, our first hotel on the Budva Riviera, consisting of 24 rooms in an ideal location on the Budva promenade, which offers the best that the Mediterranean culinary tradition has to offer, as well as a unique spa and wellness center and conference logistics facilities of high quality. The hotel is designed to meet the needs of modern guests with different tastes.

(Photo: Casa del Mare)

eKapija: You`ve already done business in the region and have worked on creating new hotel brands in Trebinje. You`ve announced projects in Croatia and Albania, expanding the Casa del Mare brand to these countries. How far have you come with the realization of these projects and are you planning collaborations with the other countries in the region?

– Conception, implementation and management of hotel projects is a very layered, long and complex process. It is of great importance, for the process itself, that we as an operator are involved from the first day, and this is exactly the case with the mentioned projects in which the investor relies heavily on our experience and knowledge already at the stage of conception, budgeting, etc. Without intending to reveal details without the presence of investors, I want to say that these projects will also see the light of day in the coming period, and that we will share the information with the public in a timely manner.

eKapija: What do you see as the greatest problem in the Montenegro hotel industry?

– The absolute biggest problem is the lack of personnel, and the almost non-existence of a clear strategy regarding the training of personnel for jobs in tourism. Every year we feel this in our business and the progress is not sufficiently visible.

(Photo: Casa del Mare)

eKapija: Preparations for summer are well underway. What are your expectations and do you already have any indications about what to expect from the upcoming season?

– We at Casa del Mare have a standardly high season attendance, both at our hotels and at Bocasa, the beach bar and restaurant. This year we are opening another beach bar and restaurant, which will be discussed in a few weeks. This year we continue with our Michelin star concept CasaEpico, in which we combine the experience of a Michelin star chef, Eros Picco, with the Kotor Bay tradition. Given that we are expanding and improving our service year after year, we rightfully expect a good season for our group this year as well.

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