A project in Montenegro is hoping to kickstart tourism in the country’s north using the location-based social networking app Foursquare to help visitors figure out where to go. The region, which attracts on 5 to 7 percent of the country’s 1.5 million annual tourists, has a lot of potential for niche tourism and features UNESCO World Heritage sites and a pristine natural environment, according to on the initiative’s founders in a post on the UN Development Programme’s Eurasia Voices blog.

Montenegrins voted in a Facebook poll to choose five tourism themes -such as mountain lakes, medieval tombstones, and local natural products – to create 1- to 2-day tour routes around the region. The themes selected in the 16 July poll will be developed into tour routes using Foursquare so visitors can “check-in” and share recommendations. The routes will be developed by teams of postgraduate students, experts, and local community members.

UNDP Montenegro, private web provider DomainMe, and digital nonprofit DigitalizujMe,partnered earlier this year to launch this project as a way to empower local communities and promote tourism through the use of new technologies. By harnessing local knowledge about the natural environment and local history, the initiative’s proponents hope that the project will generate job growth, promote local businesses, and help develop sustainable tourism hotspots.

With the five routes selected, they will be drawn up with local support, and then mapped on Foursquare, according to project leaders. All tourists will need is a car and a smartphone.
Durmitor National Park, Montenegro

Montenegro is a popular tourist destination, though tourists tend to keep close to the country’s southern beaches. The north, where poverty rates are four times higher, has the potential for year-round tourism, but until now it has remained off the tourist radar. Can geolocation social networks and services change this? Can a balance be struck between environmental protection and developing economy? UNDP Montenegro team leader Milica Begovic Radojevic believes the answer to both these questions is yes.

Foursquare, a social media site that uses geolocation software to allow users to “check-in” to destinations, find businesses and services in their area, and then share this information with other users. Enthusiasts tout Foursquare as a powerful tool for small businesses that depend on tourist traffic, and it has shown success in the USA. But will it work in Montenegro?

Foursquare profile for Crno Jezero, a lake in Northern Montenegro

The project leaders have outlined some potential drawbacks: Foursquare has fewer users in Europe than in the USA, and Montenegro lacks WiFi infrastructure. Nonetheless, it is a way of putting a new destination on the tourist radar, it could expose Montenegro to growing niche markets, like ecotourism, and it could turn Montenegro into an early leader in geo-social technology.

Montenegro is not alone in its embrace of social media to develop tourism. The tourism industry in other Eastern European countries is starting to engage in other similar uses of geolocation technology. Welcome2Poland, an app aimed at tourists in Poland launched during Euro 2012 soccer championship, allows users access a mapped database of 220,000 services, across Poland.

Feature image courtesy Mercy from Wikimedia CommonsOriginally posted on Netprophet.

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