June 10, 2019 – The relationship between tourism and the environment is fragile, and the recent media about Carnival Cruises and pollution has led Croatia’s leading boutique travel agency, Secret Dalmatia, to take a symbolic stand.
Tourism keeps on growing. Living in Croatia for many years, I can see at first hand how the environment has changed to do additional construction (and so can you via this incredible new 1984-2019 timelapse service from Google Earth), and the sheer weight of numbers of visitors in cities like Dubrovnik in summer are taking their toll.
The poster child of this overtourism and negative effects on the environment is often the cruise ship industry. Thousands of day trip visitors arriving at the same time, transported by giant ships that pollute the pristine waters that are one of the destination’s main attractions.
The recent $20 million fine for pollution for Carnival Cruises has brought the issue sharply back in the media focus, with some truly alarming numbers. (You can read the original Financial Times article here – subscription only)
Carnival Corporation and its Princess subsidiary just can’t seem to quit polluting the planet. As the Financial Times reports, Carnival’s pollution problem is so bad that across its fleet, the large boats pollute 10 times more than all 260 million of Europe’s cars. That tidbit comes courtesy of a study by the European think tank Transport & Environment, which looked at 203 cruise ships sailing European waters in 2017. The organization found that Carnival–and its brands–were the proud owners of seven of the 20 most polluting cruise-ship lines.
Secret Dalmatia, a boutique tourism company in Croatia known for its ethical and innovative custom-made tours around Croatia, including its lesser-known areas, has decided to make a symbolic stand to protest this cruise ship pollution. As Secret Dalmatia founder and CEO Alan Mandic explained to TCN:
Over the past years, we have witnessed a rising number of consequences from cruise ship tourism in Croatia. A few positives, perhaps, but many negatives. World heritage cities, like Dubrovnik, crumbling under the weight of thousands coming to see it all at once. Crowds which chip away at everyone’s experience, primarily their own. Local infrastructure completely backed up and locals’ everyday living suffering as a result.
The burden upon cities comes hand in hand with the threat the pollution caused by cruisers poses to our fragile seas and oceans. And the Adriatic is Croatia’s largest treasure.
As promoters, but primarily protectors of the Croatian heritage and environment, we have decided to forego all types of cruise ship business in the future. In line with good practice, we intend to honor all of our commitments to date in 2019, but will no longer be able to accept tour and traveling requests put forth by both cruise ship visitors and shore excursion operators.
We strongly believe that it is us who benefit from Croatia’s beauty must be its front line of defense from overuse. This is our small contribution in that direction and in hope that we preserve Croatia’s beauty for all the future generations of both locals and travelers.
Within hours of making the decision, Mandic said he was able to put the new policy into practice – refusing a cruise ship enquiry for a lucrative tour around Sibenik.