The residents of Venice have been rumbling for a while about the influx of cruise ship passengers in their fragile city. The relationship between Venice, Italy and cruise ships is tenuous at best. It has been reported that relations between residents of Venice and the ever-growing number of tourists is strained, at best. With approximately 50,000 residents living in Venice, the influx of cruise ship passengers (up to 30,000 per day) is overwhelming the city. That does not include the number of tourists entering the city via land (by planes, trains, and automobiles). Calculate land-based tourists into the mix, and Venice residents are helplessly outnumbered.
Just last year UNESCO warned the Italian government that if they didn’t move to prohibit “the largest ships and tankers” from Venice by this year, UNESCO would place Venice on the list of endangered heritage sites. UNESCO is ultimately concerned about the irreparable and significant damage that can be caused to a city that they are actually trying to prevent from sinking.
But Venice isn’t the only city besieged with cruise passengers that’s looking at ways to reduce the number of those passengers entering their city. Enter Dubrovnik, Croatia. The number of cruise passengers visiting Dubrovnik is already capped at 8,000 people per day; much less than the 30,000 cruise passengers that Venice sees on a daily basis. But the newly elected Mayor of Dubrovnik would like the halve the number of daily cruise passengers, down to 4,000.
In 2015 UNESCO recommended that Dubrovnik cap their cruise passenger tourism to 8,000 people per day. And, as with Venice, that doesn’t include tourists that visit the city by land. The 8,000 cruise passenger cap hasn’t always worked. In 2016, out of 243 days that cruise ships called on Dubrovnik, there were 18 times that the 8,000 passenger cap was exceeded. The city has already declined 40 requests from cruise lines to have ships call on the city as a port of call.
The challenge for cities like Venice and Dubrovnik is the balance they have to delicately maintain between their economy and their ability to save their cities for future generations. What happens if we lose UNESCO sites like Venice and Dubrovnik because they were too popular and were loved to death? What if the infrastructure collapses (if Venice sinks) and they’re no longer there to visit in the future? It is akin to hunting an animal species to extinction. Those that relied on the fish or animals to survive, now have nothing left to hunt because they were over hunted. Are we “over hunting” our UNESCO heritage sites, by sending too many tourists at the same time?
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.