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Montenegro takes gamble on Bond`s Hollywood vision of its attractions

10-Jan-2007 • Casino Royale

Montenegro officials have welcomed Casino Royale as free promotion. However, the elegant and swanky Montenegro depicted in the film is actually Karlovy Vary, in the Czech Republic - reports FTD.

Balkan filmgoers erupted in laughter on seeing James Bond arrive by luxury high-speed train for the dramatic poker game at the centre of Casino Royale, the latest film in the long-running franchise.

For a start, the elegant and swanky Montenegro depicted in the film is actually Karlovy Vary, in the Czech Republic. And real Montenegrin railways are slow, rickety and, on occasion, downright dangerous. Less than a year ago, a local train derailed on a mountainside near Podgorica, the capital, killing 46 people and injuring scores more.

However, such factual discrepancies have not deterred the government of the newly independent Balkan country from riding shotgun on the Bond bandwagon. Officials have welcomed Casino Royale as free promotion. Predrag Nenezic, minister for tourism and environmental protection, says the new 007 film should be "even more effective" than the "Wild Beauty" advertising spots in heavy rotation on US television networks.

According to Mr Nenezic, €60m ($79m, £40m) of investment is under way to improve the rail network, while private operators might soon start scenic mountain rail excursions. "By 2008 and 2009, things will be much different in this country," he said.

Five-star hotels are going up and low-cost charter flights are under discussion. However, the country of only 650,000 people will have to hurry to improve its deficient infrastructure for the hoped-for inflows.

The smallest ex-Yugoslav republic gained independence from Serbia in a peaceful referendum in May. It received about 1m visitors this year, up 17 per cent on 2005. With a larger share coming from the European Union, revenues rose more than 20 per cent, according to the tourism ministry.

Independent statehood has brought new obligations to Montenegro's modest capital city. Podgorica must find accommodation for foreign embassies and international organisations. In recent years the city has spent €120m on water services and other infrastructure. Upcoming building projects above ground will bring back some of the charm destroyed by bombs in the second world war, says Miomir Mugosa, the city's mayor.

The local filmmaking industry looks at Casino Royale as a lost opportunity. Perhaps not a surprise given the scale of the industry. Podgorica has only one cinema - which has yet to show Casino Royale.

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