Branko Kazanegra is one of the leading figures in Montenegro's tourism industry. He is the owner and manager of the Adriatic Express travel agency, which has won Montenegro's Wild Beauty Award as the country’s best travel agency for three years running. His company is also a major partner in the Queen of Montenegro Hotel at Becici beach, close to Budva, voted Montenegro’s best hotel in 2006.
Kazanegra is a passionate fisherman, a tradition he inherited. His grandfather told him that blood has the same salty taste as sea water, "so I sometimes get the feeling that sea water flows in my veins!"
Branko Kazanegra has forty years worth of experience in the tourist sector; he says he “caught the bug” while working in tourism to earn some money after finishing law school in 1968. The formula is simple, he says: "Receive a guest at the hotel, in a restaurant or at the beach just like you’d receive a friend at home – and it will all be fine!”
Kazanegra won a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to attend university in the US in the early 1970s, where he was awarded a masters degree in hotel management. Nowadays he travels around the world to promote tourism in Montenegro. He is a former Chairman of the Montenegrin Tourism Association. He is also well-known at home as a passionate advocate for raising standards in the facilities offered to tourists visiting the country.
He voted for independence in 2006; for him, national independence is an extension of the self rule that the area south of Budva has enjoyed for ages.
Self rule became a fact in 1423, when the Pastrovici tribe signed a treaty with the Venetians, who had taken control of the coast three years before. The Pastrovici were guaranteed autonomy and free trade within the borders of Venetian state, without having to pay customs or any other taxes. In return, the Pastrovici agreed to provide recruits for the Venetian army. Branko has documents dating back to the seventeenth century.
"And concretely, with regard to this place, I have evidence – in the archives of our church, our ‘Pastrovics’ monastery – that my house is 400 years old. It is without doubt more than 400 years old, but there is 400-year old written documentation of inheritance, in which a member of the family bequeaths it to his heir. The place in which we find ourselves is a small fishing village. A few hundred meters away is Sveti Stevan, which formed the centre of our Pastrovska Republic. We had an autonomous administration since the 14th century. This place has a long history. The Pastrovska Republic existed from the 14th century and we administered our affairs autonomously throughout this time.
At first we were under the patronage of Venice; later, when Venice disappeared from the historical stage, we came under the patronage of Austria-Hungary. This lasted until 1919 when we became part of what was then Yugoslavia.
And throughout this time, for centuries, we had an autonomous administration and the right to administer justice ourselves. We elected our own government, our own leader, and once a year we met for the annual assembly of all citizens. All those above the age of 18 were citizens. This assembly elected the members of all of the republic's institutions."