Tuesday, 16 October 2018
The Restless Native The Restless Native

Dubrovnik Needs to Make Peace with Tourism

By  Sep 08, 2016

Sometimes my guests ask me whether Dubrovnik is a new destination. It's not. The city's tourism is well over a century old. During this time Dubrovnik has seen plenty of highs and lows as a holiday destination, surviving three wars and plenty of political turmoil. It was visited by celebrities, members of the international jet set, royalty. Today, it's becoming more popular than it ever was. In fact, Dubrovnik is so popular it faces the same problems shared by many other top holiday destinations - overcrowding, high prices of hospitality services, inflated property prices, lack of authenticity, to name a few.

Because of all this, people are starting to raise their voices against some of the negative effects tourism has on our daily lives. Sometimes, the sentiments are very much anti-tourism. Many people in Dubrovnik fall into one of two camps – one which looks down on tourism business as inherently bad for the local people and the local way of life, and the other which believes we should allow and promote anything that will make money. Of course, neither of the two extremes is the solution this city needs.

Generations of Dubrovnik people have worked hard to build this destination up, and that should be respected. On the other hand, it is impossible to run a successful destination without some negative effects on the local environment and way of life, especially in a small place like Dubrovnik. We are seeing more and more of the city turned to restaurants, souvenir shops, cafes, and so on. This is not in itself a bad thing, but once these businesses start eating away at the space once held by local stores and workshops which are either needed for the local population to be able to function, or are representatives of local culture worth preserving, then you have a problem.

Many of us choose fast profits over long term benefit. This is not only a result of individual greed, but fear as well. Let’s not forget Croatians have witnessed some pretty erratic changes in their society over the years. Only in my lifetime (I am 35) this country has gone from a communist, socialist society where everything was state owned, through a bloody war where all the institutions and laws broke down, to an independent democratic society with a market economy, to now being a member of the EU with all the new rules and regulations that come with being a part of one huge common market. All these changes brought forth shocks to the national economy and endangered people’s personal finances. In my lifetime, we have gone through three currencies and are waiting to adopt the fourth one – the Euro – if it survives long enough for us to adopt it. All this makes Croatians very determined about earning as much as possible when given a chance, because of the uncertainty they feel about the country’s financial health.

Fear makes people do silly things (Brexit, anyone?), but it is time to face our fears and stop the damage being done to Dubrovnik as a destination. It is time to realise the only local threat to us making money from tourism in the long run is trying to make money from it by all means necessary in the shortest period possible. Without imposing certain restrictions that will prevent harmful business practices, we might… we will do irreparable damage to our main source of income, but also to our community in general.

It is time to make peace with tourism and embrace the concept of sustainability. It is the only way we will be able to ensure this city remains as beautiful and as special as most of us remember it to be. If we have to sacrifice some of our projected profits to accomplish this, so be it.
Bozidar Jukic, AKA The Restless Native, is a Dubrovnik local with too many interests to name them all, with writing being at the very top of the list. He is a lover of good food, music and film, and a firm believer in the healing power of laughter. His professional orientation is towards tourism and travel so it comes as no surprise he spends most of his time alongside Mrs. Jukic running their own local tour company. Their goal is helping travellers from all over the world get a more intimate experience of Dubrovnik and what it has to offer. To find out more about their work, visit their website or Facebook page.

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