“Today the tourists have returned by now the city faces a new challenge, how to keep that magic alive under the footsteps of thousands of daily visitors?” – asks Greg Dickinson a travel writer for The Telegraph Travel in a video released today entitled “has Tourism Killed Dubrovnik?”
Dubrovnik, along with Barcelona and Venice, is struggling to cope with the interest from foreign tourists. They arrive on massive cruise ships, by plane and on day-trips and every day the Old City is a magnet for thousands upon thousands of visitors. Finding the correct balance, in a city that lives from the tourist dollar, has been challenging for the city’s authorities for years. Many would say that Dubrovnik is a victim of its own success, but the truth would be the it is a victim of terrible planning and short-sightedness. Short term gains have impacted the long term strategy.
“Within the city walls the population has decreased in recent years. It’s maybe due to the rising demand for tourist apartments, but also the lack of amenities for local people,” states Dickinson in the article.
However, this view is not echoed by all. The Dubrovnik Times spoke to a popular travel guide and local of the Old City of Dubrovnik, Ivan Vuković, who is in the front line of tourism in the city. When asked if tourism had killed Dubrovnik he replied “No. This year is better. Less tourists. The results from the last year will never happen again but it is about sustainable tourism, not about numbers.”
And in reality the numbers and statistics back him up. By the end of the years there will be less cruise ship passengers than in 2017 disembarking at the Port of Dubrovnik. The so called “red days” when the city faces more than five cruise ships in one day are considerably less than previous years.
Vuković added “Less cruise ships, less crowds, this year. Or just better control of it and more things to do around like in Lapad, Cavtat, etc. To be honest it is much more enjoyable for me to live inside the walls. The strategy works.”
So what is this new strategy? One of the biggest problems facing the new Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Franković, was the crowds and the mass of negative publicity Dubrovnik was receiving from the world’s press. His solution came in the form of a project called “Respect the City.” And even though this project is still in its infancy it seems to be working. One of the points was to alter the arrival and departure times of cruise ships with the aim to ease the collapse of the infrastructure. This is a measure that has largely worked and the Port of Dubrovnik have informed us that the real benefits of these moves will be felt next year.
Nikolina Farcic, a café bar owner in the Old City, added that “After the war everybody was happy to have tourists and we were letting the tourism happen to us. There was no strategy there was no vision on how to deal with it and there was no management. We can’t blame the tourist we have to blame ourselves. We have to make people understand that the Old City is not a museum, people live within the city walls.”
And the echo felt around the city is now a more sustainable approach is on the way. Along with the “Respect the City” regulation a movement to attract tourists all year round might also help to disperse the summer season crush. Speaking to The Telegraph the director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Romana Vlasić, stated that “What I want for Dubrovnik in the future is to have an all year round season. And the reason is not to have more tourists but more for the local people and for their employment. People will be employed all year round and there will be no need to move somewhere else to look for a job. Tourists want to visit a real city with real people.”
So has tourism killed Dubrovnik? No. Has it been badly wounded and in need of treatment and care. Yes.