“It is certainly a unique and classic city but I must say it is rather expensive,” commented the elegantly dressed lady next to me in Gradska Kavana. “I had a perception that Croatian was much cheaper,” she added sipping at her expresso. I smiled gently, carefully preparing an answer that I have given many times before.
Working in the media is truly an extremely privileged position, and I sometimes have to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming. I often find myself in places and positions that give me the feeling that I have no right to be there. But experience counts and over the years I have learned to make the most of the opportunities presented.
I am often contacted by foreign journalists, almost on a weekly basis, looking for quotes for their latest travel article about the Pearl of the Adriatic. I know how difficult it can be to find a quote so I am always willing to help these foreign colleagues. And one such contact was sitting opposite me in Gradska Kavana.
“I am writing a lengthy article for Swiss Air magazine,” wrote the lady to me a few weeks ago. Basically that’s how we managed to be sipping coffee together in the spring sunshine. “You can’t compare Dubrovnik’s prices to the rest of Croatia, of course the city is the most expensive in the country,” I replied to my Swiss colleague. “I just thought that 20 Kunas for a coffee was a little pricey,” she looked off into the distance. “Really, you are sitting on the Stradun, in the Mediterranean sunshine, in one of the most popular destinations in Europe and you think that 20 Kunas is expensive for a coffee. The last time I was in Switzerland I paid 4 Swiss Francs for a coffee in a petrol station,” I added.
If you think 20 Kunas for a coffee on the Stradun is expensive then please, please don’t come to Dubrovnik this year. Don’t book your flights. Don’t think about reserving a hotel. Don’t pack your suitcase. Please don’t come to Dubrovnik! You’ll only be disappointed and really nobody is interested in seeing your social media photo of your “overpriced” bill from a Dubrovnik café bar.
If you want to see Croatia, then please just go to Makarska. I am not saying that Dubrovnik is cheap, but it is certainly not expensive. If you think Dubrovnik is expensive then you really need to travel more.
Don’t compare this ancient unique city dripping in history to some manmade concrete monstrosity on the Spanish coast. This is a Ferrari destination, not a Fiat destination. And we all know that not everyone can afford a Ferrari. In fact, if less people come it might be better for all of us. The constant year-on-year rise of tourists is unsustainable. Dubrovnik isn’t getting any bigger.
I am often told “At some point the bubble will burst and less tourists will come every year.” My answer is always the same THANK GOD! That is exactly, exactly what we need. Tourism is an industry and not a number collecting game. Who cares if we had 2 million tourists last year and 3 million tourists this year. As one well-placed director in Dubrovnik once told me “Show me the bank that accepts these figures as money.” In a Ferrari destination we need the bubble to burst and less tourists to arrive. And sooner rather than later it will burst. And once again I say THANK GOD!
With all due respect I hope the bubble will burst, and I am even willing to lend someone a needle to pop it. Many people say that Dubrovnik is a victim of its own success. Wrong! Don’t blame this on the beauty of the city. Dubrovnik is a victim of moronic organisation and complete short-sightedness and most importantly greed. All human characteristics. There are way too many tourists through the peak season and any negative media that leads to a drop in these numbers can only be a positive step. You can only squeeze so many sardines into a can. We have brought the can to breaking limit. In recent times we’ve had international articles such as “The Death of Dubrovnik,” but for me these are in fact the kind of promotion we need. We are at saturation point and need to find a way to reorganise the city.
Let’s be honest in August neither the tourists nor the locals are happy, it is the unhappiest month of the year by far. Let’s cut back on the greed. It seems fitting that the late Stephen Hawking have the last word, “We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet.”