Thursday, 30 April 2020

Doug Lansky: How Coronavirus Will Force Destinations to Stop Overtourism

April 30, 2020 - How will the coronavirus affect one of the scourges of travel in the last few years - overtourism? Acclaimed tourism guru Doug Lansky on a must-watch video for Croatia's tourism chiefs. 

Does anyone remember the word 'overtourism'? From memory, it entered the mainstream English language a few years ago, as a way to define the issue of too many tourists in one place at one time. 

And it was only a few months ago.

And until just a few months ago, Croatia's tourism strategy seemed to be focused on numbers, numbers, numbers. Insane growth in a short time saw private accommodation beds double from 400,000 to 800,000 in just a few years, lured by great tax incentives. So good in fact, that many people took advantage of them, paid almost no tax on the earnings, and then made enough in 4-5 months so that they did not have to work for the rest of the year. 

Things have changed with corona. A lot. And while the health risks and economic downtown will be extremely painful, so too does corona give us the chance to reassess our lives and our priorities. 

And our tourism. 

I met Doug Lansky at the Crikvenica International Heath Tourism conference in Selce last year, where I - along with everyone else in the room - was extremely impressed with his excellent keynote speech, Successful Tourism.

So impressive in fact, that Lansky was hired for two more keynote spots planned for earlier this year, EPIC 2020 in Dubrovnik and One Day or Day One #hrturizam2030 in Zagreb. Both have been postponed due to COVID-19. 

He may not be travelling, but Lansky is still very active, and recently posted this outstanding overview on tourism, overtourism and the corona effect. It is a must-watch for tourism planners, and I hope our tourism chiefs find the time. For we need another strategy beyond numbers, numbers, numbers. 

Destinations have been wrestling with overtourism issues for years. What's been lacking is a fundamental understanding of the forces behind it, what early-stages of overtourism look like, and the political will to take the necessary steps to solve the problem. This video explains the key underpinnings of overtourism (aka congestion/ overcrowding / unbalanced tourism) and shows how the Coronavirus [COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2] provides an opportunity for destinations to make long-overdue smart and sustainable tourism decisions. Doug Lansky is a keynote speaker and advisor in the tourism industry. Find his TEDx Talks and more info at

Among the initial comments:

Very good. I run a yacht in Montenegro and no longer go from Kotor as it's a cruise ship stop and fifty speedboats have appeared in two years to race guests up and down the bay as fast and cheaply as possible. We don't even go near the place as the normally still, beautiful water at the end of the bay looks like open sea due to the washes. We saw this happen in Dubrovnik first and so adapted our itinerary and marketing, so the proposals in this film really resonated.

For more on Croatian tourism, visit the TCN travel section

Saturday, 25 January 2020

CNN Highlights Dubrovnik in 2020 Fight Against Overtourism

January 25, 2020 - If 2019 was the year of overtourism, is 2020 the year crowded destinations fight back? CNN reports on various initiatives, including from Dubrovnik. 

Where once Dubrovnik was hailed as one of the must-see destinations of Europe, the Pearl of the Adriatic, in recent years it has been more likely to be featured in the international media as a poster child of a new scourge of modern travel - overtourism. 

Multiiple daily cruise ships, an army of Game of Thrones fans, and the incessant tour bus day-trippers from neighbouring (and not so neighbouring) destinations all played their part to crowd the historic old town that limits to the number of people allowed in were introduced, and locals advised to stay indoors at certain times of the day. 

Dubrovnik was not alone in being a victim of its own success, with top destinations such as Venice, Amsterdam and Barcelona also feeling the strain. It is an issue which needs to be urgently addressed if the charms of what make these destinations so attractive and unique are not to be lost. 

In a detailed feature, CNN looks at the various initiatives being undertaken by five European destinations which have been worst-affected by overtourism - Amsterdam, Santorini, Barcelona, Venice and Dubrovnik:

Mayor of Dubrovnik Mato Franković has cast himself as a crusader against mass tourism, shutting down 80% of souvenir stalls, and restricting cruise ships to two per day.

The stalls remain closed, and the two-ship rule was abided to 70% of the time during 2019, he tells CNN. It will be further enforced (with, he says, higher compliance) in 2020.

"There's not such a big impact to the city now," he says. "Everyone should feel comfortable without any [pedestrian] jams."In November 2019, Franković proposed an effective ban on new restaurants (the vast majority of Dubrovnik restaurants have seating mainly inside, so the legislation has banned any new outdoor tables).

That resolution was passed by the city, and a spokesperson told CNN that it is due to come into force for 2020.

Read the full CNN story here.

To learn more about the city, check out the Total Croatia Dubrovnik in a Page guide

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Croatia and Dubrovnik in World's Top 3 for Overtourism per Capita Map

August 8, 2019 - Tourism works well when there is a balance between the ration of number of tourists and residents. An overtourism map featuring Dubrovnik and Croatia.

There are several ways to look at the issue of overtourism globally, and one simple method puts Croatia and Dubrovnik at the top of the global map of overtourism. 

A new map published earlier this year looks at the tourist countries and destinations which have the highest ratio of tourists to residents in the world. 

When comparing the ratio of tourists to residents, Croatia has the second-highest number of tourists per capita (3.78) behind only Iceland. 

Dubrovnik Old Town comes in third at 1,000 tourists per resident. 

Interestingly, the next European country in the list is Austria at 3.34. 

To see the map and the full list of the top ten countries and destination, visit the original article on Vivid Maps.

Tourism revenue for Austria was US$22.4 billion. For Croatia, it was US$10.7 billion

The Croatian Bureau of Statistics reported yesterday an increase of cruise ships (10.6%) and cruise ship passengers (14.1%) for the first 6 months of 2019.

Croatian tourism needs a reset, at least in my opinion. Apart from the negative environmental impact on its prized jewel, the Adriatic coast, due to the mass tourism of the summer months on the coast, a better ratio between number of tourists and local residents is crucial for successful tourism and local quality of living. 

Rather than just criticise, here are 5 gifts and trends I believe Croatia should focus on to develop its tourism with an eye to the future and away from the concentration on the summer months and most popular destinations - Branding Croatia: 5 Gifts and Trends to Focus On

For the latest in Croatian tourism, follow the dedicated TCN tourism section


Monday, 1 July 2019

A Simple Plan to Contain Overtourism in Dubrovnik (and Elsewhere)

July 2, 2019 - The season of overtourism is in full swing in cities such as Venice and Dubrovnik. Some simple steps to improve the situation.

Overtourism is a little like the climate crisis. Everyone can see it happening (unless you are the Trumpster). Everyone can see it is getting worse and knows it will eventually kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. And nobody in authority is doing anything about it. And with so many people feeling comfortable and making money from it, there is little appetite for change from those in the tourism business because the money - for now - is good. 

Would a tourism business support a move which might reduce overtourism a little but severely impact their business? In reality, there are exceptions, such as the laudable decision by Secret Dalmatia recently to refuse all future tours from cruise ship passengers. The move is not going to save the planet on its own and it will impact the agency's bottom line considerably, but a rare and commendable example of one small business making a stand. Most tourist businesses would rather protect their bottom line, which is understandable.

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(Two cruise ships in Dubrovnik on Sunday)

It is the same with the climate crisis. A recent New York Times article, If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay at Home?, could not put the issue more firmly in the locker of personal responsibility of each and every one of us:

Each additional metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent — your share of the emissions on a cross-country flight one-way from New York to Los Angeles — shrinks the summer sea ice cover by 3 square meters, or 32 square feet, the authors, Dirk Notz and Julienne Stroeve, found.

In February, my family of three flew from New York to Miami for what seemed like a pretty modest winter vacation. An online carbon calculator tells me that our seats generated the equivalent of 2.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Throw in another quarter-ton for the 600 miles of driving we squeezed in and a bit for the snorkeling trip and the heated pool at the funky trailer-park Airbnb, and the bill comes to about 90 square feet of Arctic ice, an area about the size of a pickup truck.

So now you can calculate how much you personally are contributing to the crisis, and there will be some who will react to these facts and not take that flight, but the majority will continue in their own short-term comfort zone. Our family holiday on the other side of the world is not going to make any REAL difference, surely?

And so, a little like climate change, the appetite to meaningfully tackle the problem of overtourism is weak. And yet if we don't, there will be no meaningful tourism experience in some of these destinations in just a few years. And please don't think I am preaching, I am the same as the majority.

overtourism-dubrovnik (2).jpg

I have spent the last three weeks travelling around Croatia on assignments with TCN and family holidays. I have been to Varazdin, Zagreb, Zadar, Zut on Kornati, Split, Hvar, Korcula, Dubrovnik and currently in Montenegro. I have seen some truly divine places (Zut, Stari Grad and Korcula Town stand out) and some true horror shows, and the bigger Dalmatian cities of Dubrovnik and Split are already full. Too full, especially during the days when the numbers are swelled by day trippers and cruise ship passengers. It is simply not sustainable. 

It is often said here that the locals would prefer it if the tourists sent the money and stayed at home, and while there might be an element of truth in that in some cases, what is happening increasingly is quite the opposite - tourists are coming and leaving their money at home. Day-trippers bringing their own sandwiches and water on day trips walking around top destinations without spending a penny (unless using the toilets). While they have a great cheap day out, their presence does little for the destination and adds to the overtourism issue with no benefit to the destination. A little like taking that family flight around the world and the climate crisis. 

The view from Venice, from an interesting article from Responsible Travel on the subject.

Of the 20 million people who come to Venice each year, only half sleep here, which is why hotel stays have dropped by two thirds over the past 25 years. Many have poured off a cruise ship – on some days as many as 44,000 cruise passengers come to the city – or are on a whirlwind tour of Italy. Some stay for just a few hours, see little, buy a few trinkets and leave. They bring no economic benefit to the city in this way. 

One aspect of tourism which is often overlooked is that many destinations are also living communities, where people live and work, and not necessarily in tourism. Tourism inevitably means compromise in a community - higher rents, less parking, more queues etc, and successful tourism works if the balance of tourism intrusion is matched by economic benefit - at least in my opinion. So if you have X number of tourists who are spending well and not upsetting the daily harmony very much, then you have a happy balance. If you have X number of tourists multiplied by three, many of whom are not spending, you have more than a small problem. 

One Dubrovnik shop owner who sells jewelry told me this week that their business last year made more money in May and October than it did in either July or August. Crazy. So not only do the locals have to put up with the negative aspects of too many people in their community, it would appear - in some cases at least - that not only are they not benefitting from the increased numbers, but it is also hitting their bottom line. For the higher spending tourists are staying away from Dubrovnik in the peak season because it is too full. 

Another business owner near the cable car (which started working again a couple of days ago) said that close to sunset, the number of visitors swells, as the view from the top is one of Dubrovnik's stated Instragrammable spots. There are several around the city and a growing number of visitors seemingly have this on their list of the only thing to do in Dubrovnik. If it is on Instagram, it happened. Never mind trying to experience the destination in any greater depth. Apart from the cable car ticket necessary for that perfect selfie, they are not providing anything except taking up oxygen.

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So what can be done to stop this overtourism and restore that balance between tourists and the community, and how to reduce the number of tourists?

The simple solution, of course, would be to ban all cruise ships and day trip buses, and you would probably solve the problem overnight. I am not advocating that, although a reduction in both would be a welcome step in the right direction. But how to encourage those visiting Dubrovnik to spend money and deter those who have no intention of doing so not to make the journey? I believe there are two simple ways which are fair and which would reduce the numbers considerably and help restore the community/tourist equilibrium. 

The easiest way to effect the change would be through a smart voucher system. Entrance to the old town is only permitted if you are staying for a minimum of one night in Dubrovnik (cash into local pockets as well as an extended experience of the town after those Instagram moments), or by buying a smart voucher to the value of 50-100 euro per person. The exact number should be defined by someone cleverer than me. Locals are free. If the combined amount is too much for a family, come for a night instead and get the voucher that way. Cruise ships can build the voucher price into their overall price and ensure their passengers get the app. Any unspent money goes to the preservation of tourism sites, or similar. 

Businesses in the old town are hooked up to the smart voucher and tourists can pay for their drinks and souvenirs via the voucher system, and the system then reimburses the individual business. That way, every tourist to the old town will spend money with local businesses, and those who are not prepared to do so do not come. Less tourists, more revenue, less overtourism. 

Is it better to have 10,000 tourists a day spending 10 euro, or 1000 tourists spending 100, or 100 spending 1000 euro? Dubrovnik is a top, top quality destination which should be having an offer to match that. Rather than the ubiquitous cheap souvenir shops with cheap Chinese tat, increase the spend of the visitor by increasing the value of the offer. 

But how will this work in practice? Setting up ticket offices and checking tickets to enter a living city would be a nightmare and cause lots of congestion. Thankfully (at least in this case), we live in the digital AI world, where technology can assist. I am not a techie, but someone smarter than me could make the following happen I am sure:

Vouchers are bought via an app (so no queues). Locals register for the app and are not charged. As tourists enter the old town, the system will notify the officials by the three entrances to the old town, and anyone entering without that notification will be politely stopped and asked to buy the voucher. Perhaps some targeted social media campaign with the threat of fines for entering without the voucher would be a good deterrent. 

People with more experience in these things will be able to refine the idea in a more practical solution, but I don't see a better way to deal with overtourism than this without outright banning of things like cruise ships. Or does someone have a better plan, in which case leave in the comments below? It is an important discussion. 

The other overtourism issue which is gaining increasing attention is the Airbnb-isation of cities and top tourist areas. Again, there is a simple solution where technology can assist, but one which will not be popular in some quarters. Simply limit the percentage of private accommodation which can be advertised on sites like Airbnb in certain areas. 10% in the city centre, for example. Controlling that by checking the online lists would be simple. It would require some legal work and the cooperation of the likes of Airbnb and, but if we are all willing to work on the issues, they are solvable. 

If there is enough will.