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Responsible Tourism in Croatia

The three year Italian Government funded initiative in Croatia ?Adriatic Small Entrepreneurship and local development? has held its final international workshop with presentations from Harold Goodwin (download)on Responsible Tourism and  Maurizio Davolio, Presidente of the Associazione Italiana Tourismo Responsabile AITR

Desa is a Croatian NGO based in Dubrovnik born in the war to maintain Croatia’s independence they are now seeking to shape tourism in ways which ensure that it benefits the people of Dubrovnik and not only a few.  The conference was used to explore the concept of Responsible Tourism and to see whether there is potential to use the concept to focus efforts to use tourism to make better places for people to live in and better place for people to visit. It is a challenge.

Tourism has grown from nothing in 1992 at the end of the war to just short of 11 million in 2010, of which 9.4 million were international, staying an average of 5.5 nights.  Germany was the major source market (22.5%), followed by Slovenia (11.5%), Italy (9.3%), Austria (8.7%) Czech Republic (8.2%), Poland (5.7%) and the Netherlands (4.4%). While I was in Dubrovnik I saw more Japanese than British.

In 1992 the population of the old town of Dubrovnik was perhaps 5,000, today it is less than 2,000, much of the old town is now a hostelry, many of the streets all but impassable for the tables ? parts of the old town look like a themed restaurant, although if you are with a local you might some quiet corners.

It was a disappointing experience, my expectations were high. Dubrovnik was an important centre for centuries, it had a legal framework for insurance 300 years before Lloyds of London. I avoided going into the old town before 16:00, when it is packed with day trippers off the cruise lines, the landing fee is, I understand, ?10. Most of them will use a toilet and maybe buy an ice-cream or cheap souvenir. There are still people living in the old town but not enough to give life to it. To visit Dubrovnik is to visit a museum without even a few enactors; and the museum is crowded, it is hard to appreciate the exhibits. There is a fashion now for trying to step on to a gargoyle’s head and stand on it ? for the sake of a cheap gimmick a bit of the old town is being worn down by tourists.

The management of the public space of old Dubrovnik is sadly lacking, its World Heritage status is not sufficient to protect it. Ironically in the Rector’s Palace in the heart of the old city, is the advice Obliti Privatorum Publica Curate: Forget private interests. Take care of the public good. If only.

As one of the delegates at the conference made clear the case for better destination management needs to be carried to the Mayor and the political authorities. I hope that it will be. If no effective destination management is put in place the operators and the cruise lines will move on from a degraded destination.

Download the PowerPoint Presentation

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