By Cailey Rizzo
September 07, 2017

One of Croatia's top destinations is battling its own popularity.

As part of that effort, Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Franković has written a letter to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), asking its members to dramatically decrease their arrivals in the historic city.

The mayor is asking for cruise lines’ help in cutting back daily tourist numbers for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He asked the cruise lines for “more careful planning of the scheduling of the daily arrivals of cruise ships” to provide a “better quality of service which is currently under much strain due the simultaneous arrival of so many guests from cruise ships.”

In response, the cruise association highlighted the benefits of visitors to the city and the need for discussion among players in the tourism sector.

“Dubrovnik is a unique destination, and the cruise industry is deeply committed to protecting its cultural heritage and safeguarding its sustainability,” CLIA said in a statement to Travel + Leisure. “The city is a treasure, and ensuring its preservation is crucial for all who live and work there, and indeed all of us who love it.”

In his letter, Franković said that mass simultaneous arrivals from cruise ship passengers “dampen the experience for everyone.”

Last year, 529 ships made stops in Dubrovnik, bringing a total of 799,916 passengers. Exact numbers of visitors that arrived by other transportation are more difficult to determine, but in 2016, Dubrovnik recorded 3,371,075 overnight stays in tourism accommodations in the city.

All of those visitors can strain the Old Town: In one day alone in August 2016, more than 10,300 people bought tickets into the walled city.

In response to last year’s increased tourism numbers, UNESCO issued a warning that Dubrovnik’s World Heritage status was at risk. To protect the city against overcrowding, Dubrovnik placed a cap on daily visitors to the Old Town at 8,000. The government installed surveillance cameras around the walls to count the number of visitors entering and exiting the complex.

Franković, who just entered office in June, has a much more drastic plan: He wants to cap daily visitors to 4,000 people — half of what UNESCO recommended. The mayor’s plan includes cutting some cruise ship stops.

“The cruise industry believes that the decision to drastically limit the total number of tourists allowed in the Old Town at one time to 4,000 without consultation is disappointing,” CLIA continued in the statement. “CLIA hopes that the comments made by the Mayor of Dubrovnik will not be put into action without discussing their impact with the cruise lines and the tourism sector.”

The Dubrovnik Port Authority is the government body in charge of negotiations with cruise lines and publishes a yearly schedule of expected arrivals into the port.