Friday, 18 September 2020
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

Could we use the pandemic to control the tourism monster we created?

By  Aug 22, 2020

Has this pandemic finally given Dubrovnik the chance to breath? A city of proportion. It probably isn’t the method we would have liked to have taken to get the end result. But it seems that the end result isn’t as bad as we had imagined. For years we’ve been trying to squeeze 10 litres of milk into a half litre carton. Not knowing, or rather not caring, that the spilled milk was not only a problem but a lost resource. A monster had been created. And we had lost control.

Covid-19 and the ensuing chaos has offered a chance to restart, or rather rethink. One factor that must be under the spotlight is the (important) role of home-grown tourists. Clearly the “Cro Card” project was a flop, but that doesn’t mean other ideas shouldn’t be brainstormed.

Many other European countries have literally saved their national budgets by encouraging stay at home vacations. This has been done with political means (sometimes ugly political means), with financial incentives and solid promotions.

From social media it is clear that Croatians have explored their own country (for once) rather than uploading images from the middle of the Dubai desert. The incredible diversity of Croatia, the combination of snow covered mountains, unspoilt nature, breath-taking islands all spiced up with a wealthy history and gastronomic pleasures should not be ignored. As the Croatian Tourist Board used to say “a small country for a big holiday.” So let’s spend our holiday money at home rather than filling the GDP’s of Austria, Italy and the United Arab Emirates. Not wanting to sound too much like Mr. Trump but – it’s the patriotic thing to do!

In fact, local tourists are amongst the most numerous in Dubrovnik. The amount of tourist I’ve bumped into from Zagreb and Istria who have never been here before is testimony to that. In many ways they have saved our tourism industry.

It’s all about sending a clear and unified message. As I have said a million times before communication is key. We are clearly in a second wave, or at least a second spike, and there are reasons for this, reasons that we all know. However, fortunately Dubrovnik has very much avoided such a spike. Message number one! If we can continue to remain at very low levels in our county, then we’ll have the opportunity to think (or rethink) an extension of the season. This probably will not be with classic travelling, sightseeing tourists, but with another sector of tourism.

However, sending a message that we are open for cruise ships isn’t helping at all. These ships may very well have the highest level of safety standards and all passengers will be checked on a daily basis, but the message is all wrong. It firstly seems like we are ringing a desperation bell. Raising the white flag and giving into the economic pressures of an Italian cruise company. It appears that we are slaves and not the masters. Will a couple of cruise ships a week save anybody financially? Even if we have zero new Covid-19 cases from this influx of passengers the overall message is disastrous.

While people are wearing face masks to the shops (and quite possibly outdoors soon), parents are worrying how their children will go to school and hotels struggling to ease potential guests fears of being in quarantine, at the same time we have opened the doors to cruise ships. If we have all been forced to wait, to tighten our belts and try our best to make sure that we get through this pandemic as best we can in order to be ready for a brighter future then why are the cruise ship companies different? Why are they so special?

Looking around the City at the guests currently staying, there are too few of them, that’s for sure, but, has the time come to make a measure of how much is enough. Dubrovnik has always been a city of measure and harmony, why not still be?


The Voice of Dubrovnik


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