Dubrovnik, the coastal Croatian town that you may recognize from Game of Thrones, broke its own record for tourists last year, welcoming an unprecedented 1,271,657 visitors. That was a seven-percent increase over 2017, which had been a record-setting, million-plus year too.
But Dubrovnik is desperately trying to keep up with the increase in foot traffic and foreign visitors and Instagram filters, especially in the already cramped streets of the UNESCO-listed Old Town. Last summer UNESCO itself warned that city officials needed to consider the “sustainable carrying capacity” of the city when it came to the number of visitors, especially the hundreds of thousands who come in on cruise ships.
Two years ago, Mato Franković, the mayor of Dubrovnik put a 4,000-person limit on the number of visitors who could be in the Old Town at any given time, and he called on the cruise operators to help him stagger arrivals and departures to ensure that tourists could see something other than, you know, other tourists.
But the word is out and people really want to go to Dubrovnik right now—this year looks like it’ll be another record-setter—and Franković has decided to take some additional steps to give the town a little more (literal) breathing room.
He’s already shuttered 80 percent of Dubrovnik’s souvenir stands and cut the number of outdoor tables at restaurants by 20 percent, but earlier this week, the city council voted to cut the number of outdoor seating options by another 10 percent.
Franković and the council will vote in December on a proposal that would prohibit restaurant owners from putting any new outdoor tables or chairs down for the next five years—and that essentially means that there wouldn’t be any new restaurants in Dubrovnik for the next five years.
“Anyone wanting to open a restaurant in the Old Town cannot put down new tables and chairs for the next five years,” Franković told CNN. “They can open inside, but knowing the Old City it’s very hard to find a place where you can work inside. Ninety-nine percent of restaurants work mainly with outside tables.”
That proposal would also mean that if a restaurant closed, it would be closed, and a new venture could not take over the space during that five-year period.
It sounds like a drastic measure, but considering how many visitors Dubrovnik’s permanent residents have had to contend with, it might be a welcome one. And nobody needs to see another #GameofThrones travel picture anyway.