Mass tourism threatens the Croatian town of Game of Thrones

DUBROVNIK, Croatia: Marc van Bloemen has lived in the Old Town of Dubrovnik, a Croatian citadel widely regarded as the jewel of the Adriatic, for decades since his childhood. He says it was a privilege. Now it’s a nightmare.
Crowds of tourists obstruct the entrances to the ancient walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as huge cruise ships unload thousands more every day. People pass each other on the famous limestone-paved Stradun, the pedestrianized street lined with medieval churches and palaces, as fans of the popular “Game of Thrones” television series search for the locations where it was filmed.
Dubrovnik is a prime example of the effects of mass tourism, a global phenomenon in which increasing numbers of people traveling means notable sites – especially smaller ones – are overwhelmed by crowds. As the number of visitors continues to increase, local authorities are looking for ways to stop the crowds from killing off the charm of the city.
“It’s amazing, it’s like living in the middle of Disneyland,” says van Bloemen from his home overlooking the bustling old harbor in the shadow of the city’s stone walls.
On a typical day, about eight cruise ships visit this city of 2,500 people, each dumping some 2,000 tourists onto the streets. He remembers a day when 13 ships anchored there.
“We feel sorry for ourselves, but also for them (the tourists) because they don’t feel the city anymore because they run into other tourists,” he said. “It’s chaos, everything is chaos.”
The problem damages Dubrovnik’s reputation. UNESCO warned last year that the city’s World Heritage title was under threat due to increased numbers of tourists.
The popular travel blog Discoverer recently wrote that a visit to the historic town “is a highlight of any vacation in Croatia, but the crowds that fill its narrow streets and passageways do not make for a quality experience for visitors. “.
He said the added attention the city is getting from being a “Game of Thrones” filming location combines with cruise ship arrivals to create “a problem of epic proportions.”
He advises travelers to visit other quaint old towns nearby: “Instead of trying to be one of the lucky ones who get a ticket to the sights of Dubrovnik, try the charming town of Ohrid in neighboring Macedonia.”
In 2017, local authorities announced a “Respect the City” plan that limits the number of tourists on cruise ships to a maximum of 4,000 at any time of the day. However, the plan has yet to be implemented.
“We are aware of the crowds,” said Romana Vlasic, head of the city’s tourist office.
But while on the one hand she pledged to limit the number of visitors, Vlasic noted with some satisfaction that this season in Dubrovnik “is really good with a slight increase in numbers”. The success of the Croatian national football team at this summer’s World Cup, where they reached the final, helped attract new tourists and new tourists.
Vlasic said more than 800,000 tourists have visited Dubrovnik since the start of the year, a 6% increase from the same period last year. Overnight stays increased 4% to 3 million.
Cruise ships pay the city port’s mooring fees, but local businesses receive very little money from visitors, who have all-inclusive packages on the ship and spend very little on local restaurants or shops. .
Krunoslav Djuricic, who plays his electric guitar at Pile, one of the two main entrances to the walled city of Dubrovnik, sees the crowds pass him all day and thinks that “mass tourism may not be. what we really need ”.
Tourists disembarking from cruise ships only have a few hours to tour the city, which means they often rush to see the sights and take selfies to post on social media.
“We have crowds of people just running,” says Djuricic. “Where are these people running?” “


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