Uncontrolled tourism threatens Balkan UNESCO sites
Besides pollution of the surrounding environment, the uncontrolled number of tourists is said to be completely overwhelming some of the sites, which could even result in them losing their prized status altogether.
Those sites most in peril in the Western Balkans include the Croatian coastal city of Dubrovnik, Byron’s famed “Pearl of the Adriatic”, and the Plitvice Lakes national park in the interior of Croatia, as well as the ancient seaside town of Kotor in Montenegro and Macedonia’s most historic city, Ohrid, as well as the nearby lake.
Concerns about Dubrovnik centre on the growing number of cruise ships docking near the city in recent years, drawing parallels with Venice, which has also been at risk of losing its UNESCO status.
Dubrovnik’s Renaissance-era old town – a popular TV and film set – is a globally known symbol of European culture and was included on UNESCO’s list back in 1979.
But, with a population of only about 40,000, it is struggling to deal with over one million tourists a year in 2016, who stayed for a total of 3.4 million nights, according to data that Dubrovnik’s tourist bureau gave BIRN.
Moreover, these overnighting numbers do not include all the visitors coming for the day on cruisers.
According to the Dubrovnik Port Authority, just under 800,000 tourists came to the city on cruisers, sometimes reaching over 10,000 visits a day.
Last year, the Plitvice Lakes was also said to be in danger of losing UNESCO heritage status due to the high number of visitors - around 1.3 million a year - reaching around 15,000 a day in the peak season in July and August.
In neighbouring Montenegro, measures adopted by the government to ensure Kotor keeps its place on the UNESCO list, including a ban on construction in the old centre, have caused controversy.
Local authorities in the town, now run by opposition parties for the first time in three decades, claim the ban is a form of political pressure on the local government. ■