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Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

Would tourist number 8,001 please leave Dubrovnik...yes I am talking to you!

By  Mark Thomas Apr 09, 2017

Are we, aren’t we? Will we, won’t we? Yes, it’s that crazy time of the year when we don’t know what to do. Have we opened another tourist season or not? To be honest I am not sure. Tourist businesses are kind of in the “can we really be bothered” stage.

The recent warm weather seems to have caught people out. I was standing over the Banje beach the other day and whilst a handful of people were actually swimming (way too cold for me) the cafe bar and restaurant still hadn’t opened. We tend to work to closely linked to the calendar rather than the climate. “It isn’t Easter yet so I am not opening,” is a phrase I have heard a few times over the past few weeks.

And in the middle of this confusion a certain project was released – which has a title just as confusing as the season “Forget the crowds, respect the rules and information.” Not as catchy as “Make America Great Again.” Now the centre of this project, the yolk so to speak, is to count the number of tourists that enter the Old City. And when the counter gets to 8,000 the city is closed, the drawbridge raised, snipers are placed on the walls and a moat of steamy lava is released. Well, no, but in theory the city is closed.

Whilst anyone with half a brain can see that the city is a victim of its own success and during the summer months it is easier to get a date with Kim Kardashian than to find a parking space around the city, or even to squeeze along the Stradun. I would agree some measures are needed; in fact some measures were needed a long time ago. We have brought this on ourselves; nobody else is guilty for our own mistakes. A short term, midterm and long term plan were required years ago. Unfortunately, and as so often is the case in Croatia, the short term plan is by Tuesday, the midterm by Thursday and the long term by the end of the week! The failure to plan has brought this panic action. Be failing to prepare you are preparing to fail, once said Benjamin Franklin.

The reality of this new project, as I understand it from an inside source, is that when the people counter reaches 8,000 the cruise ship passengers waiting in the port will be required to wait a little longer before their buses unload them on Pile. No “normal” tourist will be turned away at the gates. So this is basically a cruise ship passenger ban – or limiter. In fact limiter is a good word, it is like that electrical limiter you have in your house that throws you into darkness if you use too much power. The city limiter will close the doors until the crowds disperse.

Of course to anyone with an IQ larger than their shoe size the core of the problem is cruise ships. Limit them and you have solved the problem.

A few years ago I heard a plan to do just that – it was named, again rather boringly, 2 + 1. The basic idea was that at any one time only two cruise ships could be docked in the Port of Dubrovnik and one in front of Lokrum – hence the 2 +1. Seemed like a half sensible idea. A maximum of three cruise ships would mean a maximum of around 9,000 passengers. No need to count tourists when you have already counted them in advance.

We already know exactly how many beds there are in the city, the only variable every year are the cruise ships, limiting the cruise ships years in advance would therefore give us a pretty good picture of the number of tourists in the city at any one time. Unfortunately this plan sunk to the bottom of the Adriatic, as many other plans have done in the past.

And when we do make plans we just ignore them. Last year a study entitled “The Strategic Development of Tourism and Recommendations for Cruise Tourism until 2025,” was published by the University of Dubrovnik. This lengthy document states that “Cruising tourism in Dubrovnik has until now happened and this kind of approach is unfeasible. This extremely important sector of tourism and business must be institutionally organised and must include all parties involved in the cruise ship business.” The study also states that it is important to increase the number of cruisers through the months of November to April, with an aim of at least 30 percent of the total number of cruisers coming in those months. It also adds that a better system of scheduling ships through the summer weeks is necessary.

So until this report is fully enforced we will continue with counting and hoping that we are not tourist number 8,001.