July 2, 2023 – As the Split party tourism discussion rumbles on, a simple breakdown of how it came to be, and how to easily change it.
When I first started writing online 12 years ago, I had very few readers, and it was a major event when someone shared one of my posts. Things are different these days, and it happens that I write an article on a whim, then check the stats after lunch, it is all over the Croatian media. No way to control it, or the spin, content or (very important) title they choose. And when a large number of ‘readers’ check the title and dive straight into the comments… That’s just the way it is.
It has happened twice in the last week. Why I Spend My Croatian Summers in Zagreb These Days not only hit the online media but ended up with me doing an interview on national television for a news feature on the topic. But that was nothing compared to the reaction to my article on Split Party Tourism Problem (And How to Fix It).
As most of the commentary was based on headlines from the Croatian media, the reduced content in Croatian media from the original article, or people who are rightly frustrated and angry by the current situation, I can tell by the comments that a lot of what I was trying to say was twisted and misunderstood. It is an important topic, and so I will try and explain it simply. Because it really is quite simple.
Young British drunken tourists are the worst, and Split (and Croatia) doesn’t need them
Because I was born a Brit, some commentators seem to think I sympathise with the British tourists. A little like I was not responsible for Bleiburg, I can’t help the fact that I was born a Brit. Young drunken British tourists are the worst, and the stories coming from party destinations on Spanish islands are legendary, for all the wrong reasons.
In an age of the buzzwords of sustainable tourism and elite tourism, it is quite staggering to see how the historic centre of Split has been taken over by young and inconsiderate drunken tourists, especially when you look to how things used to be just 10-15 years ago, before Split became a hit destination.
Locals can’t understand the behaviour, or why they should be a need to educate them on basic things such as peeing in the street or fountain. There shouldn’t be, but there is. For when they go on holiday, they are looking for a mix of the following – sun, sea, sex, cheap booze, a party, and a destination which will let them do what they want. Spain has catered to this tourism for decades.
Cheap booze? questioned a few commentators. I thought people were complaining that the Croatian coast was expensive? Twenty euro for as much as you can drink pub crawl followed by free entrance to a club is super cheap to a Brit, as are cold ones from the numerous booze shops on once exclusive Marmontova. Especially when they can then sit in beautiful squares and be free to pee around the corner until they pass out.
Uncivilised and anti-social behaviour? Certainly, and it is disgusting, but why is it coming to Split?
Build It and They Will Come
As residents of those Spanish island cities will tell you, drunken groups take over the destination, and anything goes (Croatia has seen about 1% of what happens there). If a destination opens its doors to this type of tourism, they come in their hordes.
And Split over the years has more than opened its doors to welcome this type of tourism.
I don’t know who in the local administration thought it was a bright idea to allow pub crawls in UNESCO World Heritage Site, Diocletian’s Palace and surroundings, where groups of 20 would shove as much alcohol down them in a limited time before being taken to a club to join other groups to continue the party. Or why businesses offering all-you-can-drink happy hours got permission to come on the scene. Or why permits for cheap booze stores replaced classier stores on Marmotova. Or why nightclubs were allowed to open in the historic centre, combining the happy hours into one long party.
But the truth is that all of those things happened, and Split created them, not the drunken tourists.
Split has the reputation as a cool and trendy city (it is), beautiful, by the sea, full of sun and beautiful people. And a place where you can drink with impunity. And when the drunken Brits realised that they can do pretty much as they want, word spreads.
Don’t Build It, and They Won’t Come
Now imagine the historic centre which has no pub crawls (I have never understood the economic benefit to Split), no happy hours (they are other locations for this away from residents if Split wants this tourism), no booming nightclubs, no cheap booze shops. Instead, a cultured centre of good restaurants, cafes, wine bars, and a cultural programme. If there was nothing to offer these drunken tourists, why would they come?
Split is 100% in charge of the direction it wants to take, and this is a problem which has been building for over a decade, as there has been absolutely no strategy.
Don’t Enforce Rules and They Will Continue
Signs saying you shouldn’t drink or pee in the street are all very well, but they mean nothing to someone who has heard the destination is cool and wild and whose mission is to get as drunk as possible. Seeing dozens of others drinking, urinating and fornicating in the street with abandon are clear signs that anything goes.
Enforce Rules and They Will Stop
There is a reason why these problems do not happen in more restrictive destinations such as Dubai, for example. Tourists know that such behaviour is not only not tolerated but can also come with a spell in an Emirati jail followed by deportation. I am not suggesting anything that draconian, but a few high-profile and highly publicised fines/arrests will start to get the message through. Croatia has a reputation currently as a place where anything goes.
The Problem and Solution in a Sentence
Currently we have the following situation: Split built it and they are coming, Split is not enforcing rules and they are behaving as they like.
Which needs to go to:
Don’t build it and they will come a lot less if at all, and enforce the rules and they will behave or find another destination to ruin.
The ball is very much in Split’s hands.