Dubrovnik as a model for responsible tourism
Maria Deligianni, Regional Representative for Eastern Mediterranean, Cruise Lines International Association
Featuring UNESCO-designated natural and historic sites, the city of Dubrovnik is world-renowned for the richness of its historical, architectural, and cultural experiences. As tourism to Dubrovnik continued to grow in recent years, the city found itself at a crossroads, and needing to decide which path to choose. City leaders wanted to capture the social and economic benefits of tourism for residents while safeguarding the long-term sustainability of the city for the good of future generations.
Dubrovnik’s response to this modern-day dilemma offers a model for cities on how to introduce responsible tourism principles into their planning processes.
Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Franković and the municipality leadership team began by posing two questions. What are the impacts of tourism on the city’s natural and cultural attractions? How well is the city managing these impacts to protect the integrity of its resources for its residents and future generations to enjoy? To help find out the answers, the city commissioned the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) to assess Dubrovnik’s sustainability status, using the global criteria for sustainable destinations. CLIA funded the GSTC assessment as part of CLIA’s cooperation with the City of Dubrovnik.
The findings were revealed in June in Dubrovnik, and the results are telling. Particularly noteworthy was the city’s “impressive” score for “destination management organization” which the report concludes indicates “a well-functioning model of public-private sector collaboration.” The report also concludes that “collaboration and innovation are natural strengths of the city.”
This praise comes as no surprise to those of us in the cruise industry who have enjoyed a constructive dialogue with the Dubrovnik municipality for some years. We have invested time to listen to each other, to learn, and ultimately to work together to find solutions to the issues raised by residents and businesses.
While most visitors travel to Dubrovnik by air, the city is a popular cruise destination. To help the city manage its visitor flow, the cruise industry wanted to play a leadership role and set an example.
As a result, last July, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Dubrovnik. During the 2018 and 2019 season CLIA cruise lines staggered arrival and departure schedules to manage visitor flow and help relieve congestion at the Old Town's Pile Gate. Cruise lines have also been working with the local community to develop new tours to include sites outside the Old Town, as well as supporting the Mayor’s ‘Respect the City’ programme educating tourists on respectful behaviour.
All those involved in brokering the agreement believed that it was possible to maximize the economic and cultural benefits of tourism in Dubrovnik through successful tourism management and were willing to work together towards that vision. As Mayor Mato Franković puts it in the GSTC report: “The key to the success of each destination is management.”
As we reflect on the future for responsible travel, the example of Dubrovnik demonstrates the power of collaboration between public and private sector and local communities. Collaboration is the key, and it is a powerful tool that is often untapped. As the world learns more about our current global health crisis, society is recognising the importance of collaboration to address issues that impact us all. We need to work together to identify common solutions.
The result offers an example for how popular destinations can preserve the unique culture and heritage that draw thousands of visitors each year. When we share a common vision, put aside commercial competition, and develop an open, frank dialogue with our partners, together, we can find the right path.