Split and the Curse of Cruise Tourism: Can the City Survive It?

Daniela Rogulj

Cruise tourism, the hot topic of the summer. Do you love it or hate it? Here’s a closer look at the impact of cruisers on Split. 

Cruise tourism is becoming more and more prominent in Split. Over the weekend, in the heart of the summer season at 40 degrees Celsius in the shade, the city of Split barely survived the invasion of three cruisers and thousands of passengers who struggled to pass through the city. 

Fortunately, the people of Split listened to the recommendations issued before the start of another hit weekend. Because avoiding Zvonimira street was highly advised, the traffic in this otherwise congested area saw a drop in crowds around noon.

Apart from the boats already parked in the marina, along with the conventional catamarans and ferries, Split also welcomed three big cruise ships “Oceana”, “Norwegian Spirit” and “Norwegian Star.” Each of them, as expected, catapulted thousands of passengers to Diocletian’s Palace, urging them to have a taste of Split for the few hours they’d spend rushing around the city, reports Slobodna Dalmacija on August 6, 2017. 

“This is the biggest crowd we had this year. Along with the regular traffic and cruises, there are 60-70 wooden sailboats, and I have been waiting for the arrival of a boat from Italy with 1,000 passengers and 200 vehicles in transit which has been delayed for four hours. We had a great excursion to Supetar, but the ferries to Vis, Stari Grad and Vela Luka were left with an extra 50-60 cars that had to wait for a new line,” said Ivan Gače, one of the loyal moorers at the port on Saturday.

However, the number of cruisers agreed to for this year is lower than last year, which does not concern the port’s administration. Although there are fewer ships, the same number of passengers is expected, which is up to 270,000. Besides, larger cruisers are coming in because of the external berths in operation this year.

“This year we expect 237 cruisers, maybe a few more. For the next year, we have already agreed to 246 cruisers, and by the end of the year, we expect about 300. Thus, the number of passengers and the size of the ships will increase. Interest to our port has also been shown by the owners of the largest cruiser that is currently being built. It is 330 meters long while the largest cruiser today is 315 meters long,” announced Captain Vjekoslav Grgić, head of the Port Operational Center of the Port Authority.

Whether or not Split will soon have to restrict the simultaneous arrival of cruisers, such as Dubrovnik whose UNESCO protection has been threatened, remains to be seen. 

In Dubrovnik, concerns have been expressed that cruise tourists overcrowd the city and endanger the city’s viable capacity, and just recently, The Telegraph even cited “The Death of Dubrovnik.” But in Split? The Port Authority is not worried. 

“The Riva and the West Coast, together with the konobas and restaurants, can absorb more tourists than Stradun and the Dubrovnik walls,” says Grgić.

Green Dalmatia considers that the arrival of more than 10,000 cruise ship tourists who stampede down the narrow streets of Diocletian’s Palace should be a red alert for the city. Thus, they have sent a letter to Mayor Andro Krstulović Opara, asking him to use his influence in the government and the administration to protect Split and make the stay for tourists as pleasant as possible.

“We have nothing against the arrival of cruisers, but we think that we should act like Dubrovnik. We prefer smaller cruisers, with up to two entries the same day. Please note that there are common conflict situations between cruise tourists and stationary tourists who stay in the city longer and enjoy spending money at our restaurants and on our excursions. I have personally witnessed the disapproval of hotel and restaurant guests several times after they have been disturbed by the invasion of cruise tourists,” says Lovro Rumora, president of Green Dalmatia. 

Sociologist Mirko Petrić, who worked alongside Dr. Inga Tomić Koludrović examining the tourists in Split, claims that there is a consensus among tourism sociologists that cruise tourism brings the least to the local community.

“In addition to bringing lower revenues, cruise tourists sharply accelerate the negative transformation of the urban space, transforming it into a monoculture of cheap souvenir shops. Such an area dies for the local population, forcing it to become unattractive with demanding types of tourists. Research conducted to draft a historical core management plan has shown that tourists who say that they have come to Split to buy something consume the least, and the ones that say they want to feel the atmosphere of the city consume more.

Self-proclaimed ‘consumers’ have a monthly income of less than 900 EUR, while ‘non-consumers,’ who ultimately spend the most, have a monthly income between 3,000 and 5,000 EUR. Because it is known that cruise tourists generate about four times more waste than stationary tourists, it is not difficult to say which type of tourism Split should embrace,” says Petrić. He concluded by saying that saving the spirit of the place – of the historical core – and preserving the cultural heritage, should be a priority for the Split city authorities. 

What does Alijana Vukšić, the director of the Tourist Board of Split, think about all of this?

When asked if cruise tourism should be restricted and whether it has begun to jeopardize stationary tourism or guests who enjoy Split for a week, Vukšić commented:

“It is a complicated issue, but it is important to point out that the competent institutions reduce the negative impact of cruisers on the destination by reducing the number of planned visits by cruise ships.”

“The fact is that cruise tourism brings many advantages to the destination, but also many disadvantages. We consider it necessary that a study on the capacity of the destination be made to see the influence of cruise tourism and then introduce limiting measures, taking into account all aspects of the capacity and including all relevant actors,” concluded the Tourist Board of Split. 


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