Dubrovnik introduces daily limits for cruise ships to preserve city's UNESCO status


  • Anton Hauswitschka


Jutros su u grusku luku uplovila dva putnicka broda blizanca, Viking Sea i Viking Star i simbolicno otvorila sezonu kruzera.
Foto: Tonci Plazibat / CROPIX
Tonci Plazibat / CROPIX

Dubrovnik won the "battle" with cruise ships. Starting with next year, only two cruise ships per day will be able to dock in the most desirable cruise destination in Croatia and the Mediterranean, bringing up to 5,000 tourists to the City.

- Agreements with cruise lines for the next year have been signed. We will have up to two cruise ships per day throughout the week, Monday through Sunday. Some days there will be only one, some days two ships will arrive at the same time, and some days one will arrive in the morning and the other in the afternoon. This is what we wanted and now we have achieved it - said Mayor of Dubrovnik Mato Franković happily and added that the issue of traffic jams remains to be addressed. He expressed belief that liberalization of the taxi market is the cause of the jams, noting that more than 1,000 taxi drivers operated in Dubrovnik this season.


After Mayor Franković started negotiations last year with largest cruise lines, members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the problem of large crowds caused by disembarking from up to seven cruise ships at once was on the path to getting solved. Redistribution of docking times of cruise ships this season lessened the problem that got Dubrovnik on front pages of several global media as an undesirable destination due to unbearable crowds in the historic City center.

The extent of the problem caused by large numbers of tourists from cruise ships in Dubrovnik is demonstrated in the fact that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is considering to declare Dubrovnik an endangered cultural heritage site. UNESCO experts calculated that up to 8,000 tourists could visit the historic City center simultaneously, while City Administration halved the figure.


The key to success of any destination is management, which we have approached by starting negotiations with the leading cruise line group CLIA as it comprises all global cruise lines. We have agreed on better distribution of arrivals and departures of cruise ships, which will relieve pressure from the historic City center and end negative publicity in the media due to large crowds and closed Stradun. While we saw growth of number of tourists from cruise ships this season of 7%, streets of the historic center were not clogged for the first time in ten years or so, especially in the three days per week when most cruise ships were docked. Excellent coordination of relevant bodies contributed most to solving the problem - Franković commented on this year's season and added that Dubrovnik can take in more tourists from cruise ships if arrivals are distributed well. - There are still days when no cruise ships are docked.

Surveillance system

The effort we have put in as part of the Respect the City project resulted in the media reporting on Dubrovnik as a pioneer when it comes to introduction of sustainable tourism. In one year we turned a negative story into a positive one - said Franković, who is receiving invitations from many sides to talk about positive examples of management in tourism. He recently talked about Dubrovnik's experience with challenges and crowds in Seoul, South Korea, at a UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference.

Besides the agreement on distribution of docking times for cruise ships, Dubrovnik uses a network of cameras for avoiding large crowds, which count the number of visitors in the historic City center. In addition, an application for direct communication with tourists is under development as part of the Respect the City project, which will provide best times for visiting the historic center. The calendar showing expected number of visitors in historic City center should be released by end November.

Some 440 cruise ships will dock in Dubrovnik this year, with some 740,000 passengers, which is approximately 3% fewer cruise ships compared to the year before, but about 5% more passengers. This year, Dubrovnik saw the millionth passenger in Gruž Harbor two days sooner compared to last year.

Unbearable crowds at the entrance to the City and lines of people barely breaking through one of the most beautiful streets in the world should soon become history. Up to four or five cruise ships used to be docked at the same time

Up to 10,000 visitors from cruise ships came to the city on the worst of days, but the figure will be halved. City authorities believe that better distribution will not lower the number of visitors, but rearrange arrivals and departures

First cruise ships met with ovations and then the industry exploded

Even though it is true that cruise ships revitalized tourism in Dubrovnik after the war, with the first cruise ships met with ovations, flowers and brass bands, the fastest-growing branch of tourism has started creating large problems for Dubrovnik over the last years.

A common question at front desks of many expensive hotels this year was - when can we go sightseeing and actually see some sights? Due to large number of visitors in the historic City center, many souvenir shops with cheap goods have sprouted around the City and displaced the few stores that offered branded goods to visitors with deep pockets.

The causal cascade of events have transformed Dubrovnik from an elite tourist destination to an excursion destination where visitors stayed only two days on average this summer. It is no longer as easy to see Hollywood stars and sheiks on Stradun compared to the start of the millennium.

Luxury mega yachts anchored in front of the City are becoming an increasingly rare sight. Dubrovnik started facing lower spending of visitors from cruise ships over the last years, along with decline of number of visitors with high purchasing power. Since development of the industry made cruises affordable to those with lower purchasing power, average spending of visitors from cruise ships has gone down. It is currently estimated at EUR 37 per day, but this includes fees of agencies and charges, while from practice we can tell that visitors from cruise ships do not leave more than 10 in souvenir shops.