The Vlogfest

Dubrovnik

The City of Dubrovnik: A filmmaker’s nirvana.
One could describe Dubrovnik as “other-worldly” and it’s the sheer variety of landscapes and locales that both
Dubrovnik and Croatia are blessed with. This has been a huge draw for the global film and TV industry,
with Game of Thrones being a stand-out entry in a long line of movies and TV shows that have been shot
here.
With filmmakers keen to commit Dubrovnik’s ethereal atmosphere to celluloid, it’s not difficult to see why
HBO, Netflix, and major Hollywood producers are enraptured by this uniquely captivating city. 2017’s Star
Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi was filmed here and 2018’s Robin Hood had Dubrovnik doubling as
Medieval Nottingham. In fact, 1987’s animated feature, Emerald City, (based on L. Frank Baum’s Oz series of
books), was inspired by Dubrovnik with filmmakers using models and backdrops all based on the city.

Mato Franković

Mayor of Dubrovnik

The medieval walls that encircle Dubrovnik have served the city well, repelling invaders since the wall’s construction in the 13th century. These walls are a complex two-kilometre complex fortification system made up of the main city wall, towers, fortresses, bastions, two corner fortifications, rows of turrets, three moats, two flank fortresses, one breakwater, and two drawbridges. In fact, it’s difficult to comprehend Game of Thrones not being filmed here. It’s as if the City of Dubrovnik and Game of Thrones were a match made in heaven.

We spoke to Dubrovnik’s Mayor, Mato Frankovic, and asked him how much of an effect the filming of Game of Thrones has had on the city, “It’s had an unbelievably positive effect on tourism and the promotion of Dubrovnik. You can imagine how these tourists feel today in Dubrovnik when they can Instagram it while filmmakers are filming on the streets of a city without overcrowded streets. Today outside they are filming Vikings for Netflix, which has had great success. Just ten kilometres away from here, Kate Winslet is filming the movie Lee about the World War II journalist, Lee Miller. So, we are having great success considering the use of Dubrovnik imagery in the film industry.”

However, Dubrovnik’s reputation as this filmmaker’s dream in the East of the Mediterranean, brought some new challenges, “When huge numbers of Game of Thrones fans started to come to the city, there was no tourism management at that point. So, the city started to become overcrowded, partially as an impact of that.”
Also, Dubrovnik is a magnet for cruise ships, who plough their floating hotels up and down the Adriatic, dispatching its day-tripping cruise ship passengers to the city. But with up to six cruise ships in port at any one time, the streets of Dubrovnik were soon teeming with day-tripping tourists. One can almost sympathise with cruise ship tourists when you walk down these streets as a day is simply not long enough. Taking a walk around these streets is less of a day trip and more of a portal into another world. Another world entirely.
But the mayor is keen to point out that the reality at times has been somewhat different. Pre-pandemic Cruise ship passenger numbers visiting Dubrovnik quickly became unmanageable, approaching 700,000 passengers in 2018 alone. At this point, five or six cruise ships were coming into port every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
They were visiting in great numbers clogging up the streets, taking pictures, and walking the tourist hotspots but crucially they weren’t spending money. The issue was further exacerbated by another important second tourist segment. Mayor Frankovic explains “The second tourist segment is from those coming on daily excursions from Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina, Split etc. So, all of them are coming with bus coaches at one spot which is Pile Gate, the entrance of the old city.”
After some digging to get the figures, it became apparent that 100 buses arrived every day, and this was a continuous stream of traffic throughout the season. With these visitors combined with tourists from the cruise ships, it was clear that these visitor levels were unsustainable.
This clearly needed to be managed. Mayor Frankovic was keen to point out that Dubrovnik needed to be preserved and that sustainability was the key to achieving that.

ENTER THE “RESPECT THE CITY” INITIATIVE.

In 2020 Dubrovnik launched a new initiative called “Respect the City”, a tourist management strategy to tackle cruise ship overcrowding and the number of passengers coming into the city as well as managing incoming tourists from other areas both inside Croatia and in neighbouring countries.
“The crucial thing about the Respect the City project” Frankovic explains, “is that it’s not just about the cruise ships and the cruise industry. We took Dubrovnik tourism as one big ball, and we divided it and we said, okay, this segment of the tourists that are arriving in Dubrovnik is the cruise segment. The other segment is the daily visitors, which are coming from nearby destinations coming in on buses and coaches.”

Fast Forward to 2022

In April 2022 Dubrovnik newspaper, DuList reported that Blaž Pezo of the Dubrovnik Port Authority expected 345 ship arrivals and about 520,000 cruise ship passengers into Dubrovnik for the summer 2022 season, which is quite an impressive post-pandemic bounce-back. But this time round, sustainability and preserving the beauty of Dubrovnik have been put front and centre.
Mayor Frankovic outlines the success of the programme which can now manage tourist numbers in real-time. “We will advise you on what are the best times to visit to have a greater experience of the old city. So, if it is from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, we’ll send you a message via mobile that we recommend this time slot for the best experience. These tourist segments are now under our control. It did take us time, and nothing happens overnight, but we can say that we are managing tourism. It was not about the numbers. It is about the flow. We do have the capacity and it is being matched with the right time management.”
The Major went on to outline how the Respect the City initiative has enabled Dubrovnik to not only manage tourist numbers more efficiently but has enabled the city to welcome as many film producers as they want, “As you can see, we are still in high season, and we are filming. We have made things that looked impossible a few years ago possible.”
He went on to add, “Nicholas Cage was here filming The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and the film featured some stunning images of Dubrovnik, but what was good for the economy at that time. Some of the hotels were open, people were employed on the film sets and they got a salary in that time when there was no money because of the Coronavirus tourism was non-existent as in many other tourist destinations.”
With tourism back to pre-pandemic levels and a completely revolutionised tourist industry, it seems that Dubrovnik has not only come back to life but has emerged as a city that not only features at the top of tourist bucket lists but in filmmakers’ bucket lists too, all flocking to experience the sublime richness that the City of Dubrovnik offers.