As the new season gets going, it’s time to reflect on some of the challenges that the modern travel industry brings to cities like Dubrovnik. The ever-increasing tourist numbers can sometimes backfire, and that’s what’s already happened in certain places like Barcelona and Venice. The overwhelming pressure on these popular tourist destinations now has a name – overtourism. Is Dubrovnik next?
Overtourism is a newly coined term, and Collins dictionary defines it as “The phenomenon of a popular destination or sight becoming overrun with tourists in an unsustainable way”. Now we’re talking! Greg Dickinson of The Telegraph quotes Rafat Ali, the CEO and founder of Skift: "Overtourism represents a potential hazard to popular destinations worldwide, as the dynamic forces that power tourism often inflict unavoidable negative consequences if not managed well”.
Is this happening to Dubrovnik? Recently, the newly appointed mayor Mato Franković introduced the campaign titled “Respect the City”, aiming for more sustainable development of Dubrovnik as a tourist destination and seeking to limit the number of daily visitors to the UNESCO-protected Old town. The term “carrying capacity” was borrowed from Eco-systems, but can be applied to the kind of management which aims to limit the maximum number of people who are allowed in the Old town at any one time. This cap is currently set to 4.000 and the city authorities announced that they were working together with the cruise industry leaders to avoid congestion at peak times by dispersing the visitors to different parts of the city and at different times. Ultimately, the goal is to relieve the pressure on the Old town in order to make it sustainable and enjoyable for everyone, tourists and locals alike.
The question is how to manage the sheer number of visitors? There are modern technologies which allow us to monitor the ins and outs of the Old town, but those are just providing us with numbers. The city authorities, together with the police, have to find a way to convert the numbers into responsible policies. Otherwise, Dubrovnik might be facing the protests from the locals, who, like in Barcelona, will take to the streets to show how they feel about their town being taken away from them. The anti-tourist sentiments are on the rise and in parts of Barcelona one can see graffiti saying “tourist go home” - a very straightforward message.
Venice, for example, receives more than 20 million visitors every year and at certain times, there’s more than 60.000 in the city itself – more than the actual number of residents, which dwindled to around 54.000. Their mayor has just recently decided on placing turnstiles at Piazzale Roma, to divert the visitors off the main pedestrian routes. In Dubrovnik’s Old town there’s only 1557 people and each day this number is surpassed by the number of day visitors. The traffic is congested, ropes separating the people going in and out are placed on Pile gate and it takes a lot of time and nerves to make one’s way through the crowd.
Some suggest the solution is to raise the prices arguing that people will happily pay more if it means fewer crowds. Others advocate setting the cap on daily visitors at overcrowded destinations. Here’s what we’ll do to contribute to a more sustainable and enjoyable experience for everyone: Dubrovnik Local Guides have already set the maximum on the number of guests on our Game Of Thrones tour, it is eight. We’ll extend this to all our tours. We believe in quality over quantity. Personal and human approach versus the feeling of being herded around. This is the least we can do. Our tours depart in the afternoon and evening hours so as to avoid the crowds and the heat. We want our guests to truly experience our hometown in a pleasant and memorable way.