On Wednesday 16th August 2017, Slobodna Dalmacija reports debauchery in Makarska by out-of-control Australian youths.
We have no intention of writing something every time reports come in about debaucherous behaviour by drunken tourists, however this time it is not about Yacht Week or drunk Brits, it is about the ‘party boats’ and the Australians who come with them.
Now, this is a funny topic for me to write about considering I was a guide on one of these so-called ‘party boats’ or ‘booze cruises’. Or, maybe this makes me the perfect person to write about it; considering I now live in Croatia, have worked in luxury tourism and am now doing my best to promote Croatia in the best light possible.
On Wednesday 16th August 2017, local media Slobodna Dalmacija published a very bold title: Makarska Invaded by 1,500 Australian Youth Out of Control – almost makes it sound like this just happened, right? Where on earth did 1,500 out-of-control Australian youth come from all of a sudden and why Makarska? So many questions.
The article continues – “locals of Makarska are at their wit’s end, young Australians are blatantly performing sex on the streets without any shame, pissing in swimming pools, climbing our balconies…”
This sort of debaucherous behaviour is not what holidaymakers expect when they book into the gorgeous coastal town of Makarska and it takes away the charm and beauty in a heartbeat. It is awful and embarrassing, to say the least.
However, this didn’t just happen overnight. Makarska was on our itinerary five years ago and the ‘party cruises’ have only increased since. There are hundreds of yachts and mini-cruisers who rely on this kind of tourism for the summer months; Krilo boats, in particular, are majority filled with young, Australian tourists.
When I was a guide, partying was the main reason most of our guests came to Croatia. Yes, they knew it was a beautiful country and they were excited to be on a boat, sailing some of the most stunning waters they had ever seen. But still, partying was a priority. Besides explaining a bit of the history and organising different activities at each destination, my job was to take my group to a bar and a club, every night.
The 7-day sailing itinerary is set up to provide for this; Hvar is not the only party destination – while it was definitely a highlight, you have Boogie Jungle in Korcula, Revelin club in Dubrovnik and Deep Club in Makarska. It was something 90% of my passengers came knowing about – ‘when do we get to party in a cave?’ (the question I was asked every day).
So, reporting on 1,500 drunken Aussies is not an exaggeration, but it has been going on for a long time. I am not by any means making excuses for it, but it brings me to a few points.
Whose responsibility are these tourists?
Do tour companies hold part responsibility for promoting Croatia as a party destination? Yes. Look at the majority of their promotions, you will see people dressed as pirates partying on boats, cocktails, shots, clubs…
Some companies are definitely better than others at trying to set rules and boundaries through their tour guides. But the fact is, the majority of marketing still points to party scenes – you can’t have your cake and eat it too “come to Croatia to party, but don’t party too hard…”
Controlling a group of excitable drunks is not the easiest task at the best of times, but there are ways to draw the line and discourage inappropriate behaviour. When I was a guide, I tried to instil a certain level of respect aboard the boat and out in public. Yes, they partied and got drunk, but I could never describe them like the above sentence. I guided more than twenty different groups, with 20+ people in the space of two seasons. Was I just lucky, or was it my approach? While individuals should be responsible for themselves, someone needs to set the tone and lead the way.
Captain and Crew
There are certain boats which are infamous for being ‘the’ party boats. Their captains and crew are just as notorious for partying as their guests. If there are no boundaries aboard the boat, then what are the chances their guests will behave ashore? Double standards.
Harbour Masters and Towns
This behaviour is completely unacceptable and I make no excuses for it. Perhaps the harbour masters and towns need to impose stricter measures and fines to deter this kind of behaviour.
Honestly, after working as a guide and now living in Croatia, I am genuinely embarrassed about the drinking culture in Australia and New Zealand; unlike Croatians and Europeans, we don’t drink to enjoy, we drink to get wasted. This is a fact and Australians (and Kiwis) ought to be ashamed of the reputation we have abroad as reckless drunks (I am guilty of this in the past).
It goes without saying that individuals need to take responsibility for their own actions and I will say it again, I make no excuses for actions described.
However, what has been reported in Makarska is not news, it has been happening for years, so what to do about it? There are a lot of moving parts in this scene and if destinations hope to improve their image away from party tourism, some big changes are going to need to come from everyone involved.