Mr. Nizar Tagi, Interview for The World of Yachts

On 30th November 2018, leading yachting companies from across the Adriatic region gathered together in Porto Montenegro, with the vision of establishing the Adriatic Yachting Association (AYA).

The main objective of the AYA is to become an advocate of business growth in the Adriatic, focused on the preservation of the Adriatic Sea, as well as offering network opportunities and service quality guidance to all members.

We had a chance to meet Mr. Nizar Tagi, Founder of the AYA and yachting connoisseur, and discuss his mission to promote the area and connect investors with trusted local companies.

The World of Yachts: Mr. Tagi, why did you decide to base the association in the Adriatic region?

I was rooted to the area from childhood, as my mother is Croatian. When the Adriatic started to rise in popularity as a yachting destination, I worked as a Sales Director at the prestigious superyacht marina, Porto Montenegro, which was and still is the biggest promoter of the yachting industry in the Adriatic and is a force that continues to set service standards in the region.

It quickly became clear that it would be a tremendous task for a sole company, regardless of effort, capacity and great ambition, to attract significant numbers of traffic to the region and put the Adriatic on the map as a competitive, all-year-round yachting destination. The years passed and I was still in search of local, growing companies, working hard to attract business to the area, but there was minimal uptake, not something that I expected, considering all the advantages of this area.

Montenegro itself has one of the lowest corporate and capital gains tax rates in Europe (9%), low barriers to entry for new businesses, property rights, and a price-competitive, educated young labour force. As a full member of the World Bank, IMF, EBRD and WTO, the recent NATO membership has further guaranteed the country’s political and economic stability. The local currency is the EURO, and tax on marine-related and tourist services is capped at 7%. Annual property tax is levied on the ownership/use of property at rates ranging from 0.1% to 5%, while a transfer tax of 3% is levied on the transfer of immovable property.

It is a great all-year-round hub with extraordinary potential, with no tax on crew salaries, no tax on fuel and spare parts in transit, and it has been recently enriched with new shipyard facilities in cooperation with Damen.

With access to Croatian cruising grounds, untouched nature, two National Parks, the UNESCO protected Bay of Kotor, a tradition in ship building, modern transport and energy infrastructure, political and economic stability, unpolluted seas and great shipbuilding culture, all provide the foundations for Montenegro to build its future on and further develop in the European and world markets.

The nearby Croatian shipbuilding industry comprises 5 large, 14 medium and 352 small shipyards producing, maintaining and repairing ships and offshore structures along with scientific and professional support provided by three universities, a hydrodynamic institute and classification
society. Though not yachting-orientated shipbuilding, it remains an attractive opportunity for investors and partners, who are increasingly turning to more competitive business areas.

The largest shipyards can be found in the prominent coastal cities of Pula, Rijeka, Split and Trogir. Joining forces with marinas, professional management companies and foreign investors could be a turning point for the Croatian shipbuilding industry which has showed signs of struggle over the last decade. In addition, there are countless opportunities involving local shipyards producing specialised vessels to support yachting infrastructure, such as barges for discharge of black waters, waste disposal and fire-fighting vessels, which can be utilised to further improve the quality of yachting and preserve the sanitation of the water.

Slovenia is home to perhaps the most understated cruising destination, the newest on the mega-yacht cruising radar. This coastal destination, stands somewhat in Croatia’s shadow, though completely unjustified – the ancient cities and stunning composition of destinations such as Piran, Koper, Izola or Portoroz are equally as charming as cities of Istria, in my opinion.

The World of Yachts: How did you chose your founding partners and what is it that connects them all?

Together with Porto Montenegro, who are constantly raising bar for local companies and setting great standards in the area, we have selected the most trusted and professional companies in the region, covering all branches of the industry, from charter, sales, management, maritime agents and concierge, to ship building and maintenance. Among our founding members is a yacht Captain – we felt it important to address the challenges faced by the local maritime workforce and hear these first-hand.

All of the individuals and companies associated to the AYA are connected by one common factor: their passion for the sea. Their admirable professionalism and desire to place the Adriatic on the yachting map as a serious destination in the Mediterranean is their mutual goal. Each involved party had a clear vision of the improvements that needed to take place in order for this goal to be achieved – these improvements cover both infrastructure and administrative changes that have been adequately initiated by the AYA.

The World of Yachts: What sorts of projects do you expect the AYA to undertake in the future?

We were hoping to establish 5 courses of action that would facilitate the growth of traffic to the region, revenues from yachting, increase GDP and create new job openings in yachting-related companies throughout the region:

  1. Creating a joint strategy for all 3 countries (Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro) to make the Adriatic a competitive yachting destination in the Med
  2. Attracting investment to shipyards and yacht maintenance
  3. Assisting in local marinas to improve infrastructure and service quality
  4. Working with local communities, Maritime Authorities and tourist organisations to better understand the demands of yachting clientele and further develop the Adriatic as a yachting destination catering to the superyacht community up to the highest level.
  5. Preservation of natural inheritance of the Adriatic