“The full term is the tourism industry, it is just that an industry, not a hobby. Can you imagine if Ford said that had produced enough cars this year and would take the winter off, they would go bankrupt overnights.” I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when this was said to me by a wise old German businessman.
So the Dubrovnik Winter Festival has begun, Christmas has begun, let the celebrations begin. The program for the biggest few nights of the year and once again, as I seem to write every year, we’ve underestimated our possibilities. If memory serves me correctly we were featured on a list of hot places to welcome in the new Year 18 years ago. Yes, for the millennium we were live on MTV and CNN as THE place to be. How times have changed. I have nothing against the line-up of singers, groups and concerts for Christmas and New Year. I do have a problem with the overall concept.
Dubrovnik is a town that lives from tourism. Every business, every citizen and every institution, whether they like it or not, is directly or indirectly linked to tourism, sorry the tourism industry. And yet for one of the most important nights of the year we prepare a program that completely misses the mark.
I am not for one moment suggesting that we should, or could even afford, to bring a Class A world star to sing on the Stradun, although it would be fun to see Beyonce or The Rolling Stones welcome in the New Year. But with some creativity there is a good chance that we could put together an attractive selection.
Or maybe go a completely different route and create a whole new event that wouldn’t be so reliant on paying, or overpaying, singers. Whereas Sydney is famous for its fireworks display from the bridge, Dubrovnik could also claim the top spot in the world for something completely new. We slipped from top spot in the world to a provincial party. Hotels would have a reason to be open, restaurants could prepare Christmas treats and guides would do special Game of Thrones festive tours. Just like Vienna is alive and sparkling in the colder months Dubrovnik should and in fact deserves to be more than a regional celebration. And yes I can hear you shouting “But we don’t have any planes in the winter.” And it’s true we certainly aren’t blessed with air links. But what ones we do have could be full if the right night, or nights, were on offer. We often fall short of our full potential because we really don’t realise what we have right in front of our noses. And when we do realise we don’t have the strength of character to commit to our ideas and push them forward.
For as I’ve already recently mentioned we don’t control when we work and when we earn money. No, that’s all left to foreign companies to decide. Who? The airlines. They decide when they will fly and how many times. We are left to be slaves to these foreign masters. It takes someone with a strong spine to stand up to the airlines. For they are our Gods. And if we would have stood up to them a long time ago we would already have plenty of flights throughout the winter to bring guests to make our New Year less provincial and more international.
And coming to back to my German business friend, tourism is an industry, a business, that should work all year round and not for half the year. There is no substitute for hard work. Never give up. Never stop believing. Never stop fighting. Because if we stand still, and we are standing still, we are in reality moving backwards. Create an entertaining and different program and people will start talking positively and not just thinking of Dubrovnik as sun, sand and sea.