Record breaking years after record breaking years, over two million tourists a year in a city with a population of 40,000, over 14,000 beds in private rentals, highlighted as one of the main victims of over tourism, and then came COVID-19 coronavirus. From riding the crest of a wave to crashing onto the pebbly beach. Dubrovnik had been for a few years the victim of its own success, or rather the victim of poor organisation and non-existent planning, and throw a few A-line film and TV productions into the mix and hey presto. However, surely it was always better to have over tourism than under tourism? We are finding out at first-hand what a lack of tourists means, we are all guinea pigs in a global experiment.
The latest blow to the tourism industry in Dubrovnik is the news that American Airlines has cancelled all flights between Philadelphia and Dubrovnik this year. Last year was a historic one, the first direct flight connection between Croatia and the US since the end of the Homeland War. And the flights proved extremely popular, so much so that a daily service was on the schedule this summer. Of course one of the reasons Americans loved to visit Dubrovnik was the fact that for many of them it was actually called King’s Landing. Game of Thrones brought not only the eyes of the world but also a new reason to visit the pearl of the Adriatic.
The second most numerous tourists in Dubrovnik last year, in terms of nationality, were travellers from the States.
Now, according to a report on the specialised website Ex-Yu Aviation, American Airlines have cut their entire schedule for Dubrovnik, flights that were supposed to arrive between June and October are now on cancelled until next year. It is a heavy blow for the city’s tourism industry, American Airlines not only carried almost 18,000 passengers to the southernmost airport in Croatia last summer, but this year had seriously upgraded their service. There were even rumours that in 2021 new flights from Chicago would be introduced.
All smiles as first American Airlines plane to Croatia in 28 years lands at Dubrovnik Airport in 2019 - Photo Tonci Plazibat
“Nobody is booking travel”, Vasu Raja, American’s Senior Vice President for Network Strategy said. “If we can reduce our capacity this summer, we can reduce our expenses”, added Raja.
2020 will be a year of challenges for Dubrovnik Airport, airlines have either postponed services that were due to kick-off in April and May to June and July, or they have cancelled altogether. The first case of coronavirus in the wider Dubrovnik region was detected at the airport, meaning that the airport has firmly closed its doors until the middle of this month, no commercial flights are landing.
And the year had started on the wrong foot, passenger figures in January were 22 percent down on the same month from the previous year, and unsurprisingly March was almost a total write-off, passenger numbers fell like a pebble in the Adriatic, down 66 percent.