FORT LAUDERDALE -- Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said a
new agreement in Dubrovnik, Croatia, illustrates how fears about crowding in
favorite tourist areas can be managed by the cruise industry.
Speaking as part of a CEO panel at the Seatrade Cruise
Global convention here, Donald took the occasion to disclose that major cruise
lines have agreed to coordinate their schedules this summer in Dubrovnik.
That could mean some ships arrive later or depart earlier to
keep their time in port from coinciding, or it could mean moving some ships to
arrive during the week rather than on weekends.
The walled Old City of Dubrovnik was named a Unesco World
Heritage site in 1979, but Donald said its mayor requested a meeting with
cruise officials because it had been threatened with delisting by Unesco.
Donald and other cruise officials met several times with
mayor Mato Frankovic, most recently in January when an agreement was apparently
"In the end, our guests don't want to go to a place
that's overcrowded," Donald said. "If the sites that everybody wants
to see are being abused, our guests won't go. It's in our self-interest, but it's
also in the interest of the places we go."
Last year, Dubrovnik received 742,000 passengers on 538
ships. The city recorded about 3.4 million overnight stays, with many visitors
drawn by Dubrovnik's status as a filming location for the HBO series "Game
Donald said cruise lines need to "listen with empathy
for the issue of what some would call overtourism, not necessarily driven by
cruise companies but by the fact that we're a very visible symbol for it; our
ships are large, and so forth. We have to listen with empathy to the ports that
are out there and make sure we work with them to get the proper infrastructure."
Dubrovnik's overtourism concerns are shared by several other
destinations in the Mediterranean, including Barcelona, Venice and the Greek
island of Santorini.
Travel journalist Peter Greenberg, who moderated the CEO
panel, said the World Travel and Tourism Council in a recent study listed "destination
degradation" as one of three critical issues facing the travel industry.
Others on the panel took issue with the label "overtourism."
"I think it's a misnomer," said Royal Caribbean
Cruises Ltd. chairman Richard Fain. "What we're really talking about is
Fain cited Royal Caribbean's development of Falmouth in
Jamaica to offer an alternative to Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, as another
successful response to crowding concerns.
After Falmouth opened in 2011, the number of cruise visitors
actually rose, but they were more spread out.
"There were more people but less density," Fain
"The opportunity, really, is to work together in these
communities," Fain said. "We work with them, and we find solutions
that are to both of our benefits. And those we work with are very happy. You
see that over and over again. Those who just want to make headlines, that's a
The Celebtity Reflection in Dubrovnik.
Greenberg said that two cities where overtourism has been a
hot-potato issue -- Venice and Barcelona -- are in the backyard of MSC Cruises,
which has its headquarters in Geneva and its operations in Naples, Italy.
MSC executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said some
perspective was in order.
"When you're talking about Venice's 30 million visitors
a year, the cruise industry is 1 million of that," Vago said.
He added that unlike the general tourism population, which
ebbs and flows individually, cruise tourists come in groups that can be
"We can actually coordinate," Vago said. "We
can actually ensure that there will never be an overflow, and we can control
embarkation and disembarkation."
A 2015 Unesco report recommended that the number of cruise
passengers at Dubrovnik should not exceed 8,000 a day, arguing that when more
than 8,000 visitors are inside the walls of the old city "tourist blight"
Research from the Port of Dubrovnik found that in 2016,
arrivals exceeded 8,000 on 18 out of 243 total cruise days, and that arrivals
exceeded 10,000 on four days that year.
MSC has been looking for new destinations in the Adriatic to
supplement hot spots like Dubrovnik. Last year, for example, MSC began calling
at the port of Sarande, in southern Albania.
"Nobody knew that in Sarande, there were 10 different
Unesco sites," MSC CEO Gianni Onorato said in a recent interview. "This
is the opportunity the cruise industry can give, because there are options.
That's the only way to solve this problem."