From Overtourism to Undertourism: CNN on the Future of Dubrovnik

Daniela Rogulj



October 29, 2020 – From excessive tourism to empty streets and pandemic blues, CNN reports on the future of Dubrovnik.

Jutarnji List and CNN report that the term “overtourism” was often used last year to describe scenes that could be seen on the hiking trails of Machu Picchu or the streets and canals of Venice. The mentioned destinations and many others wrestled every day with crowds of tourists who wanted to experience a place’s natural beauties and cultural goods.

Then came 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic.

No plan, forecast, and projection of tourism experts included the possibility that the sector would crumble and fight for survival. As COVID-19 spread around the world, bans on movement and quarantine forced people to stay at home. 

CNN, therefore, wonders: Is overtourism a thing of the past?

To get an answer to this question, CNN contacted destinations that had suffered from this type of tourism before the pandemic. Dubrovnik is a perfect example. 

The sea of terracotta roofs, city walls, and connection to the TV series “Game of Thrones” led to a significant increase in the number of tourists who visit Dubrovnik every year. Next to tourists enjoying the Adriatic Pearl for an extended weekend are those who came to the city on cruise ships and will leave by the end of the day.

As the crowds grew larger and larger from year to year, Mayor Mato Franković and other city officials promised to bring the situation under control. Last year, the number of cruisers allowed to dock in the old city port was limited to two, 80 percent of souvenir shops were closed, and it was proposed to ban the opening of new outdoor restaurants.

In early 2020, officials wondered if the measures would bear fruit.

The pandemic, which hit Europe hard in March, led to the decision to close the borders, and tourists stopped coming.

When Dubrovnik reopened at the beginning of the summer, and when tourism started again, mostly Croats came to the city. International guests began arriving only when passengers were received at Cilipi Airport again. But it didn’t take long as the number of people infected with the coronavirus began to rise again.

“The UK had put us on the quarantine list, and everything sank again. Airlines started to reduce the number of flights,” Deputy Mayor Jelka Tepsic told CNN. “Dubrovnik without flights and without the British market achieves minimal numbers.”

Local tourist guide Ivan Vukovic said he finds it strange to see Dubrovnik so quiet. Truth be told, he also says that a break from the crowds is good for him.

“The atmosphere during the summer is similar to that of the 1990s when the (Homeland) War was still raging. The only thing is that there is no shelling now,” Vukovic told CNN.

Dubrovnik recovered from the war and became one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations. The question now is whether the pandemic and the ensuing catastrophe can catalyze change.

Tepsic says the restriction on cruisers and other measures against overtourism will not be lifted when international airlines resume operation, and the city is ready to invite guests to return.

Dubrovnik wants to tell its future guests that it seriously wants to deal with the problems of excessive tourism and coronavirus.

“At the entrance to the Old Town, there is a large sign saying that everyone should wear masks, keep their distance and wash their hands and use disinfectants, and we have special rules within the ‘Respect the City’ program,” said Tepsic.

Unlike many European destinations, Croatia allows Americans to come, but only if they have a negative PCR test for COVID-19 that is not older than 48 hours. The lack of flights makes it difficult for the vast majority to arrive, but those with access to private jets come to Dubrovnik.

Tepsic says the city will continue to focus on luxury tourism.

City officials and entrepreneurs want tourists to walk the city streets again, but they also want a sustainable future.

Vukovic says the goal is not to return to excessive tourism but “some kind of normal tourism, if at all possible.”

You can read the full article on CNN.

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