The attitude of the tourist boards doesn’t quite marry with the attitudes of the city dwellers. Croatian news outlets seem to celebrate the country’s record numbers of visitors – all concentrated in a handful of cities and islands – by calling tourist demand “healthy” and “welcomed”. In fact, the Croatian tourist board has been named one of the top five in its industry
, rewarded for helping make Croatia one of the fastest growing destinations in the world. Rewarded, it seems, for failing to protect cities like Dubrovnik from overtourism.
There are small signs that change is coming. Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Frankovic has claimed that he wants to cut the number of tourists by half. He’s worked with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) to on a Memorandum of Understanding
that promises to work with Dubrovnik to preserve its cultural heritage through responsible tourism management: say, getting the major cruise companies to coordinate schedules. They hope to introduce a strategy to limit cruise ships to two a day carrying 5,000 tourists.
The little coastal nations (and wildly popular cruise stops) of Venice, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, Cyprus and Dubrovnik have formed a little scrum in the shape of the Civil Society Network of Historical Cities of the Eastern Mediterranean to raise awareness of harmful overtourism. And the tourist board is moving its gaze
to lesser-visited islands along the Dalmatian Coast.
What you can do
Instead of striking Dubrovnik off the list, there are questions you should ask yourself
. Can I use a local tour operator? How do I support small, low-impact businesses? Is my cruise environmentally and socially sound? Have I learned about the storied history of Dubrovnik – the real history? Should I travel in the high (blood pressure) season?
When you travel with a responsible tour operator
, many of these angles will be covered for you. You don’t have to worry about whether your vacation is helping or hurting Dubrovnik, because it’ll be run by local people who deeply care about their city and surroundings.
The perks are many – for you and Dubrovnik’s citizens. You’ll sail out on Croatian-crewed cruises caulked with care for their country’s coastline. Stay in locally run guesthouses that lay out homemade bread and recommendations for the cliffside bar unknown to the tourists. You’ll have dinners fresh with Adriatic shrimp and plavac mali wine, served by Croatians who are keen to share their underrated cuisine. Real-deal city tours replace stories about a fictional set of families with a timeline that covers everything from Dubrovnik’s stint as an independent republic to the still-standing effects of the Croatian War of Independence.
Timing is everything. Avoid Dubrovnik between May and September
. And if you can’t, only visit the Old Town in the early mornings and evenings, when the cruise crowds have slipped back to their bunks.
Don’t spend your whole time in Dubrovnik
, either – share your wealth with under-visited, equally beautiful places up the coast that really need your investment. Kayak around the Elalphiti Islands, go cycling to the backdrop of constant sea views along the Dalmatian Coast, or hike silent Lokrum.