Croatia’s Dubrovnik suffering from overload of tourists after Game Of Thrones showing

Croatia’s tourist hotspot Dubrovnik is becoming overwhelmed by tourists, a problem exacerbated by its use for filming in Game Of Thrones.

The citadel known as the jewel of the Adriatic is a Unesco World Heritage Site and cruise ships regularly dock there, bringing hordes of tourists keen to sample delights such as the Stradun, a pedestrian street.

Dubrovnik is a prime example of the effects of mass tourism, a global phenomenon by which the increase in people travelling means the standout cites, particularly small ones, get overwhelmed by crowds.

As the numbers of visitors keeps rising, local authorities are looking for ways to keep the throngs from killing off the town’s charm.

A cruise ship sails off as another one is moored in Dubrovnik (Darko Bandic/AP)">
A cruise ship sails off as another one is moored in Dubrovnik (Darko Bandic/AP)

“It’s beyond belief, it’s like living in the middle of Disneyland,” says Marc van Bloemen from his house overlooking the bustling Old Harbour in the shadows of the stone city walls.

He thinks the town is in danger of becoming a mere tourist site if something is not done fast.

On a typical day, there are about eight cruise ships visiting this town of 2,500 people, each dumping some 2,000 tourists into the streets.

He recalls one day when 13 ships anchored here.

“We feel sorry for ourselves, but also for them (the tourists) because they can’t feel the town anymore because they are knocking into other tourists,” he said.

“It’s chaos, the whole thing is chaos.”

The problem is already hurting Dubrovnik’s reputation.

Tourists walk through Dubrovnik old town (Darko Bandic/AP)">
Tourists walk through Dubrovnik old town (Darko Bandic/AP)

Unesco warned last year that the city’s world heritage title was at risk because of the surge in tourist numbers.

The popular Discoverer travel blog recently wrote that a visit to the historic town “is a highlight of any Croatian vacation, but the crowds that pack its narrow streets and passageways don’t make for a quality visitor experience”.

It said that the extra attention the city gets from being a filming location for Game Of Thrones combines with the cruise ship arrivals to create “a problem of epic proportions”.

It advises that travellers would be better served visiting other quaint old towns nearby: “Instead of trying to be one of the lucky ones who gets a ticket to Dubrovnik’s sites, try the delightful town of Ohrid in nearby Macedonia.”

In 2017, local authorities announced a Respect The City plan that limits the number of tourists from cruise ships to a maximum of 4,000 at any one time during the day.

The plan still has to be implemented, however.

Crowds of tourist are clogging the entrances into the ancient walled city, a Unesco World Heritage Site (Darko Bandic/AP)">
Crowds of tourist are clogging the entrances into the ancient walled city, a Unesco World Heritage Site (Darko Bandic/AP)

“We are aware of the crowds,” said Romana Vlasic, the head of the town’s tourist board.

But while on the one hand she pledged to curb the number of visitors, Ms 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 bring new tourists.

Ms Vlasic said over 800,000 tourist visited Dubrovnik since the start of the year, a 6% increase from the same period last year, and had three million overnight stays, which is a 4% increase.

The cruise ships pay the city harbour docking fees, but the local businesses get very little money from the visitors, who have all-inclusive packages on board 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 of Dubrovnik’s walled city, sees the crowds pass by him all day and believes that “mass tourism might not be what we really need”.

The tourists disembarking from the cruise ships have only a few hours to visit the city, meaning they often rush around to see the sites and take selfies to post to social media.

“We have crowds of people who are simply running,” Mr Djuricic says.

“Where are these people running to?”

- Press Association

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