The old town of Dubrovnik becomes crushed by its own popularity
Croatia’s Adriatic coastal city of Dubrovnik is a victim of its own success.
“The hordes of tourists are slowly killing Dubrovnik,” says prominent journalist Luko Brailo.
Mayor Andro Vlahusic is taking aim at the day-trippers, “who only want to stroll the Stradun (the main street) without buying anything,” according to a quote in the newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija.
The medieval city is popular, but also limited in size. Along the Stradun promenade, the peninsula is not much more than 350 metres across.
Experts say that this is enough for the city to cope with 7,000 tourists per day – but last summer, their daily numbers were up to 25,000.
Dubrovnik’s port has in the meantime been expanded to handle 15,000 cruise passengers each day.
According to the local tourism authority, more than 1 million cruise ship passengers arrived in the port last year.
The local population on the other hand is dwindling – down to only around 900 people.
“A general collapse is taking place in the city,” Ariana Vela of the EU Projects organisation, the Poslovni Dnevik newspaper says.
Djuro Capor, of the citizens’ initiative “Srdj belongs to us” – Srdj is the mountain behind the city walls – says this: “In the high summer season Dubrovnik is under downright occupation.
“For all the crush of the crowds you can’t see the historic buildings any longer. Each day, 300 buses are circling around the old city centre.”
One repercussion from the bus traffic and mass tourism is that day-trippers have become a sore point for well-heeled tourists staying in the luxury hotels outside the old centre’s gates.
Dubrovnik actually aims to promote quality tourism, notes Ariana Vela.
“However, this is not elite tourism, but rather a crush of the masses, worse than the kind you see in Lloret de Mar or other similar Spanish vacation spots,” she says.
The city is considering imposing hefty fees on the tour buses.
All the same, things are expected to worsen. On the slopes of the 412-metre-high Srdj, investors are building a new tourism quarter from scratch.
When planning began back in 2003, a golf course of 100 hectares was envisaged, with open leisure space blending with countryside.
Now, a heavily built-up zone of 310 hectares is now planned.
Djuro Capor of the Sdjr initiative says the building plans were illegally altered. The history teacher says that grounds, originally earmarked for sports and recreation facilities for local residents, had now been zoned for construction.
A complaint put before the constitutional court has been ignored for years. In the meantime, the original plans for investments of 80 million euros (Bt3.25 billion) have given way to a figure of 1.2 billion euros, a measure of the developers’ hunger for land.
Besides the golf course, foreseen now are two hotels, 240 villas and 400 apartments.
“This is, pure and simple, property and real estate corruption and speculation,” Capor charges.
Elsewhere on the coast there are similar problems.
Authorities in the central Dalmatian tourism centre of Makarska, north of Dubrovnik, have created problems for themselves by issuing a controversial permit for an apartment building.
Put up just a short distance from the town’s best hotel, the Park, the new building all but obscures what was once Makarska’s upscale landmark.
The tiny beach there now cannot cope with all the sun-seeking vacationers. Nearby restaurant owners and employees of the Park hotel call the erection of the beachside apartment house an “architectural crime” – and like Dubrovnik’s activists, say it is the product of corruption.