Tourism in Dubrovnik is dying. It is the worst ever season. Next year will be terrible. The bubble has burst. The end is near! Wrong, rubbish, not true, massive exaggeration, codswallop and just no! The doom merchants are circling like vultures over a dead carcass waiting for Dubrovnik to fall.
They will be circling for a long time.
Pretty much ever since I arrived here I have been hearing the same stories of a dying tourism industry. And yet every year they are proved wrong. And they will be wrong again. The end is far from close, what we are seeing is completely normal, it’s called market correction. It happens in every industry, in every country in the world, and has done since the beginning of time.
“I have been renting my apartment for 120 Euros a night for the past four years and this year I have dropped it to 100 Euros,” said a friend who works in the tourism business. “It is normal, what we were living in before were abnormal times, where the market was growing and still finding its feet, now with an influx of new apartments the market has changed, that’s what makes the world go around,” he added with a smile. He is right.
Supply and demand is what drives any market, in absolutely any business, so why should Dubrovnik tourism be any different? People who have been renting out garages, converted shops, corridors and even in one situation I saw, a flight of steps, to tourists and expecting to sell them for ridiculous figures are inevitably failing. Quality apartments, with a high level of service and sold at a reasonable rate are still busy. Market forces at work. “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” once wrote Abraham Lincoln.
The cream is rising to the top and the sour milk is being flushed down the toilet
I had the pleasure to meet a CEO of a leading American travel agency a few months back and he said “If renting is your main form of income then you are already skating on thin ice.” Far too many people see renting as a main form of income and not as an added bonus. “It should be seen as a supplement. Realistically the tourism industry in Dubrovnik will reach a peak, and after that peak it will fall slowly until the market decides what the level is, there is no need for panic or pessimism. You have a world class product that will always be attractive to travellers, always and forever,” he concluded.
Of course realism and level thinking doesn’t make for good headlines. You are far more likely to open an article entitled “The Death of Dubrovnik,” than you are to click “Tourism in Dubrovnik experiencing market correction.” Yes, we may receive less tourists next year. My reaction is – I hope so. You can’t complain about overtourism in one sentence and then moan that there isn’t enough people to fill your apartments in the other.
For too long tourism has been measured by numbers, sorry, the wrong numbers. It isn’t a case of just pouring more and more people into the already limited Old City. If we have 2 million tourists spending X this year in the city. Surely it would make more sense if we had 1 million next year spending 2X. And as the whole destination would be less crowded the tourists are more likely to have time, space and indeed the will to stop and spend more money.
I have said it before, it’s the Fiats and Ferrari formula. Sell one Ferrari and you have the same profit margin as selling 10 Fiats (if not more). Dubrovnik could, and indeed should, be a Ferrari destination. Forget quantity, concentrate on quality. If the numbers drop off but the profits rise, then you are reaching a goal.
And if that means that the sub-standard apartments, the lousy restaurants, the grumpy travel agents and the embarrassingly poor hotels fail, well quite frankly that’s an added bonus. Honestly in many ways these pitiable objects should be thanking their lucky stars that they have been in the position to earn with a bad product for so many years and now hold their tongues.
There is no need to ring the alarm bells, to run to the hills and shout “the end if nigh,” it is a time for a reality check. There is no good and bad luck. As the Israeli businessman Eliyahu M. Goldratt once said “Good luck is when opportunity meets preparation, while bad luck is when lack of preparation meets reality.”