Tue | Dec 11, 2018

Mass tourism threatens Croatia’s ‘Game of Thrones’ town

Published:Friday | September 21, 2018 | 12:11 PM
In this September 7, 2018 photo, tourists walk through Dubrovnik old town. Crowds of tourist are clogging the entrances into the ancient walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as huge cruise ships unload thousands more daily. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

DUBROVNIK, Croatia (AP) — Marc van Bloemen has lived in the old town of Dubrovnik, a Croatian citadel widely praised as the jewel of the Adriatic, for decades, since he was a child.

He says it used to be a privilege.

Now it’s a nightmare.

Crowds of tourists clog the entrances to the ancient walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as huge cruise ships unload thousands more daily.

People bump into each other on the famous limestone-paved Stradun, the pedestrian street lined with medieval churches and palaces, as fans of the popular TV series “Game of Thrones” search for the locations where it was filmed.

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

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

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

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 at the city.

The problem is hurting Dubrovnik’s reputation.

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

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.

However, the plan still has to be implemented.

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