The Argument for Dubrovnik as a City Break

Lauren Simmonds

A long-standing argument that has been brought up by a great many people, for a very long time.

The reclassifcation of Dubrovnik as a ”city break” would mean a total overthrow of the rather narrow view currently held by not only most airlines and holiday companies, but by the city itself. It’s an issue that has found itself the subject of debate from all angles for a considerably long time now, but particularly since Croatia’s accession to the European Union back in 2013. With restaurant terraces stripped bare by the removal of their army of chairs and many hotels readily closing their doors as soon as November’s first dawn breaks, or even before that, what draw is left for those wishing to escape the blistering heat of summer and experience the empty Dubrovnik for the living, breathing museum it really is? Other than private rentals (and the owners of most of those are quick to say sayonara after summer ends) where do they stay? What do they eat? Where do they go? Sure, to say the city ”shuts its doors” to the world is a rather wild exaggeration and nor is it one I am trying to make, but the sheer contrast between summer and the beginning of autumn is hard to believe until you see it. This is mainly due to the fact that Dubrovnik is viewed by those making the big bucks from full planes and package holidays in an entirely wrong way, and their tunnel vision is to their own financial loss. A very close personal acquaintance of mine in the government recently referred to it in private conversation with me over a bottle of red as a ”bipolar destination”, not exactly a politically correct comment but if you can see past that and have spent time in Dubrovnik during winter, you’ll know it is a deeply truthful description.

When you think of a summer destination, what comes to mind? Sea, sunshine, sand and relaxation are likely to be at the top of any usual list, particularly on the lists of vitamin D deprived Northern Europeans. While Dubrovnik is located next to the sea, has a bit of sand and does indeed enjoy almost year round sunshine to some degree or another, it isn’t quite Corfu or Zakynthos, and with all due respect to the famed Ionian islands – nor should it ever be. We have seen what generations of the dumbing down of tourism in Greece has done to the wounded cradle of European civilisation, how many people now visit Greece to further their understanding of Plato’s philosophical theories? Or indeed to get to know Zeus and Poseidon better? Not many. Go to coastal Greece after October and you’ll be shocked at what greets you. An abundance of greed and low budget facilities coupled with a total lack of foresight, hindsight and tourism management has lead to a ghost town crisis and there is simply no need for Dubrovnik, which is ironically nicknamed the Croatian Athens, to clumsily follow the same path.

Currently, the only year-round connections to Dubrovnik are from London, Frankfurt and Istanbul, which is quite embarrassing when you compare that with the sheer influx of flights from around the world heading directly for Dubrovnik Airport between the months of June and August. Owing to talk of the gradual so called extension of the currently accepted summer season by various public figures and the release of official figures reported yesterday, there is an encouraging increase in visitors staying in Dubrovnik during the ”off season”, with 2017’s maiden month of January hosting an impressive 11,657 tourists from not only other European countries but from distant countries like Korea and of course, from the United States – the country whose nationals make up a huge percentage of Dubrovnik’s foreign visitors and the country from which there is, as things stand, not one direct flight. Do the current preparations for Robin Hood: Origins and Nissan’s presentation of their new Micra have something to do with it? Yes, it’s highly likely. But so does the Dubrovnik Winter Festival, the attempt of the city to attract people who may want to step foot in Dubrovnik after… October (gasp, imagine that).

A culmination of events, including DuRun10K, the city’s first sporting event of 2017 and the only race in a UNESCO World Heritage Site take place, not to mention the famous Festivity of Saint Blaise and the Day of Dubrovnik. All these fairly large and definitely popular events go on under the blue skies of the sunny Dalmatian weather which blesses Dubrovnik during winter, and visitor presence is growing with each year that passes, but how will it continue unless airlines realise not everyone wants to be packed like sardines and be baked to the core inside the city walls in mid August? Dubrovnik is a beautiful place to visit in summer, and this article is by no means attempting to denote that. The city has come on leaps and bounds since its devastation during a brutal siege that took place not long ago, but what it is currently facing is an attack on its very soul and identity. Is Dubrovnik a place in which you can relax and enjoy a cocktail on the white sands of a two mile long beach? No. Is it brimming with clubs and rich with nightlife? No. Is it an island resort populated only by hotels and swimming pools? No. Is it dirt cheap to visit? No! Dubrovnik is a European gem, the home of extraordinary men of letters, scientific geniuses, intellectual pioneers and some of the greatest minds of literature the world has ever seen. It is a completely unique bastion of art, heritage and history, boasting an endlessly rich fountain of culture that could rival any other place not only in Croatia but anywhere in Europe. It is a place for which no excuse can be made to be made difficult to access during winter, the one season in which Dubrovnik removes its Kings Landing, Naboo, ice cream, cruise ship and kayaking mask and becomes what it really is.

Croatia Airlines, currently the only company alongside British Airways which connects Dubrovnik directly with London 12 months per year, has been eyeing up Scandinavia (namely Stockholm and Oslo) and recently announced plans to expand its services and adopt new aircraft, with both the CEO of the national carrier and the Tourism Minister agreeing that the need for deeper, further cooperation was there when it comes to extending the summer season. If you’ll excuse the pun, we hopefully have lift off, or at least the very beginnings of it.



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