Today, 27 September is World Tourism Day. Initiated in 1980 by the UN this year’s theme is tourism and rural development. As with all UN International Days—and for all of us—the coronavirus pandemic changes everything. Travel and tourism experts predict that national travel will recover before international travel. Data about the global economic impact of coronavirus on tourism posted by the UN World Tourism Organization projects over 100 million jobs at risk.
The coronavirus pandemic seems to have amplified growing criticism about tourism. Air travel is known to be a major source of carbon emissions contributing to climate change. Overtourism damages historic and natural wonders. In an article for The Guardian, journalist and author Christopher de Bellaigue defines ‘Tourism is an unusual industry in that the assets it monetises – a view, a reef, a cathedral – do not belong to it. For all the money the industry usually brings in, one of the prices of allowing a place to be taken over by tourism is the way it distorts local development.’ The ethical dilemma de Bellaigue presents begs more questions.
Croatia is known throughout the world for its hospitality sector. Tourism accounts for about 17% (or 22%) of Croatia’s GDP. Opatija is home to The Museum of Tourism. The University of Rijeka provides training in sustainable (not babble) tourism, niche experiences (adventure, eco, health, gastro, religious, volunteer) and promotes tourism as an entry point into understanding climate science, cultural and environmental heritages, workers rights, and trade. The National Tourist Board’s longtime campaign ‘Croatia Full of Life’ features breathtaking photography. And Croatia consistently reaps travel awards for excellence. Notable in 2020 is a Telly award to Balduči Film further establishing Croatia’s position as a desirable filmmaking location.
Do tourists get a true picture of what Croatians are like? British blogger and Total Croatia News owner Paul Bradbury describes Croatia as a ‘Kingdom of Accidental Tourism’ Is Croatian tourism accidental or intentional? Needed and/or wanted?
I did not attend Riječki karneval 2020. The previous year Turistička zajednica Rijeke introduced me to some of the ways Croatians live for and with their rowdy, endearing ’season.’ Karneval’s ability to generate tourist dollars did not appear to overshadow spirited celebrations. Riječki karneval 2020 was supposed to kick off the city’s year as the Cultural Capital of Europe. Just two weeks after karneval’s International Parade finaIe—COVID19 hit and Croatia implemented strict restrictions. (COVID in Croatia has its own WIKI https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_in_Croatia)*
Riječki karneval cannot be rushed. Carnival traditions are tied to very old beliefs and cultural practices made new every year by people who have deep affiliations to place and to each other.Croatia overflows with similarly inspiring places, people and traditions. While international air travel continues to be prohibitive, less flight are less harmful to the environment. More focused travel with longer visits that leave fewer footprints may encourage shared responsibility for the health of our planet. Reciprocating hospitality in investments, service and lasting, positive relationships may reshape how we travel.
*Due to the effects of the coronavirus crisis, the European Commission has today proposed to give Rijeka (Croatia) and Galway (Ireland) the possibility to extend their year as 2020 European Capitals of Culture until 30 April 2021…..