Dubrovnik is one of the most visited and beautiful cities in the world. I wandered the winding streets of this rugged metropolis, a walled medieval landscape perched on the cliffs of the Mediterranean. I was transported to another time, like I was in a fairytale.
Not only is Dubrovnik incredibly beautiful, it is also incredibly appreciated by people. Too many people. So many people that they are suffering because of it.
Overtourism happens when there are so many visitors that the community is negatively impacted.
Some effects of overtourism are:
- Locals and tourists experiencing overcrowded streets, parks, and public transportation.
- Higher cost of living, goods and services causing locals to move away from the city center.
- Local traditions and stores replacing with souvenir shops.
- Negative impacts incurred on the natural environment.
How can you help? This is how you can minimize your impact as a traveler.
When compared with other tourist destinations, Dubrovnik has the third most tourists per capita. That’s 1,000 tourists per resident.
Why is this happening now? It is largely due to globalization.
Travel is cheaper and more accessible than ever before. Thanks to the internet we can find the temperature in Bali right now, the best places to eat ramen in Japan, or even how busy our favorite restaurant is, just by Googling it. Not long ago travelers needed travel agents to book flights, accommodation, and plan everything to see and do.
More travel means more tourism, which is a double edged sword. Especially in fragile and historic places like Dubrovnik.
On one hand, businesses, restaurants and shops thrive under the high demand for local foods and products. On the other hand, locals are pushed out of their city that was previously used solely to meet the needs of those who lived there.
Today, Dubrovnik’s cafés are no longer a meeting place for locals to sit with their neighbors for three hours with an espresso.
Changes are part of life. But is overtourism the change we should be embracing?
It’s difficult for me to compartmentalize the selfish part of me that likes to “travel off the beaten path” and the part of me that knows my impact as a tourist is negative in many ways.
I love the fact that in less traveled places locals are so friendly and interested. Many want to talk and to learn about my culture, and I truly appreciate this. This is one of the many reasons I love traveling: to interact with people, to learn, and to understand.
Tourism means locals can make more profits and expand businesses. But it also means that the cost of everything else goes up too.
Many tourists don’t think about the long term impacts of where they put their dollars. It’s not intentional, it’s just what happens when we want to indulge and enjoy ourselves on vacation.
But we must make sacrifices so that Dubrovnik doesn’t become like so many other cities. Take Barcelona, for example. The number of tourists increased from 1.7 million in 1990 to more than 8 million in 16 years.
In June, Barcelona was named the most polluted port in Europe due to visiting cruise ships.
Dubrovnik used to be an undiscovered port city at the tip of a jagged and breathtaking coastline. Today it is a highly sought after beach getaway full of cruise ships and Game of Thrones tours.
We must do something before tourists love this city too much and drive it’s capacity past the tipping point. Like climate change, we can’t wait until the damage is irreparable. We must act now to curb tourism to a sustainable level that benefits travelers and locals alike.
How can tourism be limited in an equitable way that doesn’t prioritize certain groups or curtail people’s experiences?
So many questions and so few answers – but discussion is important.