When did I become a seasonal worker? Probably 21 years ago when I left the hustle and bustle of London for the supposedly more relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle of the Adriatic. The whole concept of working, well to be more precise earning, enough money in the summer months to cover the costs of the barren winter was a completely alien conception to me. Kind of like the squirrel storing his nuts in a hollow tree to cover the rainy days. Somehow overnight I have turned into a squirrel.
But that’s the thing when you work in tourism, you aren’t the master of your own destiny anymore, and apart from tourism there isn’t a whole lot else going on in this town. You dance to the beat of a drum played by tourists, and for them there isn’t a weekend or holiday, every day is a holiday and they just want to have fun. And who can blame them?
I have recently taken on a few new roles in the tourism industry and am seeing from the front line the challenges facing our city. Whether you are working on the front desk, or in the back office, there are certainly a whole plethora of obstacles. And that old adage of working with people is the hardest is absolutely true. Firstly, it is really, really hard to find workers, and next to impossible to find workers who actually want to work. I sometimes get the feeling that many people would be a lot happier if tourists just sent their money in an envelope and didn’t actually turn up in the city at all. There are more lazy “workers” than fish in the Adriatic. But that’s a story for another day.
So I am a seasonal worker, joining the ranks of the Slavonians, Montenegrins and half of BIH who migrate like swallows every summer to land in Dubrovnik. Over the past few weeks I have been fortunate enough to dine in many different restaurants, as part of my job of course, and so far I don’t think I’ve met a waiter from Dubrovnik. We must be the biggest importers of workers in the country, apparently so 3,500 this season have descended. Dubrovnik has always been a “cash cow” for the entire region so why should things be any different this year, and at least on the surface it seems that these migrant workers do at least want to work.
I was chatting the other day to a couple from California. In fact, they were diaspora, or rather second generation diaspora which of course they didn’t speak Croatian. Anyway we were chatting about their summer, or put another way their never ending summer. And that got me thinking.
So I’ll ask the same question to all you seasonal workers. Would you like to work at the same pace throughout the whole year and not only in the warmer months? Could you cope with working like you do in the summer all year round. After some deliberation I decided that I wouldn’t mind at all. In fact, I would like to have the opportunity at least to work all year round.
And this is one of the problems facing Dubrovnik as a destination. The stop/start way of working makes it hard for everyone. From the airport which goes from less than 20,000 passengers in the winter to closer to half a million in the summer, from hotels that go from packed to the rafters to locked down and abandoned in the winter. And of course to the workers, for the most important piece in the tourism jigsaw is exactly them, people. The peaks and troughs of our current season makes it hard for people to adjust their lives, their earnings and their families. We go from floods to dry deserts pretty much overnight.
I’m not saying that it for everyone, but at least people could have a choice. Now they have no choice. And it is possible. For example, if I said “Austria” the first thing that comes into your minds is skiing, snow and maybe Mozart. But did you that Austria receives more tourists in the summer than Croatia. They have no sea, no coastline, no swimming and not close to the same sunshine filled climate, but they have more tourists in August than Croatia does. So if it’s possible to turn a classical winter vacation destination into an all-year round holiday spot then there must be hope for us as well.
And then my dream of working hard all year round could come true. Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning – Albert Einstein.