Like mushrooms after the rain the number of ATM machines inside the historic Old City of Dubrovnik has grown to abnormal levels. Every spare metre squared of shop front is blocked off with multi-coloured flashing machines causing one local to comment “It feels like we are now living in Las Vegas.”
It has been growing steadily in recent years, with more and more shop owners deciding to subsidise their sky-high rents by installing ATM machines. However, it has come to a head in recent weeks with an absolute explosion of automatic bank machines on every corner and filling every shop front.
On the main street through the Old City of Dubrovnik, the Stradun, a street that is the main attraction for tourists, there are now an incredible 26 flashing ATM machines. Given the fact that the Stradun is approximately 300 metres in length that’s one ATM every 11.5 metres. And inside the ancient Old City walls there are 37 bank machines, whilst in the close vicinity of the walls there are another 9, or 46 ATMs inside a radius of around 500 metres.
The speed of these new ATMs are springing up is alarming to say the least. For example, from the 28th to the 29th of May three new ATMs were installed on the Stradun.
Business owners are trying to cash in on the guaranteed rent that banks and money exchange companies pay every month for the privilege of renting a couple of metres squared. Information obtained by The Dubrovnik Times suggests that banks pay between 1,000 and 2,000 Euros a month in rent, depending on the position and the footfall. Whilst money exchange companies pay between 800 Euros and 1,500 Euros a month. With many business having two ATM machines in their shop front it is easy to see the financial benefits, but at what cost to the overall image of the destination.
Speaking to Dubrovacki Vjesnik the owner of the Artur Gallery in the Old City, Tea Batinic, commented that “Stradun isn’t a normal street but the identity of the whole city. Shop windows on the Stradun are the eyes of the city. Every shop window and door before represented one craft, they would display their goods for the public to see. If we need this amount of ATM machines then they should be moved to the side streets. The number of ATMS is counterproductive and we risk that tomorrow all we will have is a gallery of ATM machines.”
And with the vast majority of tourists paying with credit card or some form of electronic payment device is there really a need for so many cash dispensers.
The Dubrovnik City Council also had on their agenda for this week the ATM problem with the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic, stating that “As for the ATMs, and I would like to use force, but this is not always real or possible. I'm sure we will find a way to solve it. What kind of message are we sending to tourists?”
And the President of the City Council, Marko Potrebica, added that “It's true that a private owner can do what he or she wants, but only as long as we allow it.”
One new ATM machine placed in the doorway of a travel agents in the Old City takes up so much room that the owner has to slide into his shop side-on.
“They said there were 22 ATMs on the Stradun, and ten just off the Stradun. That’s 32 ATMs in the historic core. And every day new ones are appearing. Obviously, the rental fee is significant. And you know well the exchange rate between the Kuna and the Euro, some of these ATMs are giving 640 Kunas for 100 Euros (the rate is around 7.5 meaning 750 Kunas for 100 Euros) and not to mention that these ATMs have a sliding scale of commission, so that between midnight and 5:00 am the commission is 20 percent,” concluded the Mayor.
And one of the opposition political parties had a clear message, if somewhat tongue in cheek, about what the future might look like in Dubrovnik. “Srd je Grad” published a mock-up photo of an ATM machine on the top of a statue in the Rector’s Palace.