“Hello I am speaking to Mark Thomas,” came the voice down the phone. I had noticed that it was a foreign number calling so I was in English mode. “My name is Bruno and I am a journalist for the BBC,” he continued.
It was those last three letters that really grabbed my attention. The mother of all broadcasters, the God of the media (sorry CNN) is on the phone...should I bow? The BBC, or as the English lovingly call it Auntie Beeb, is more than an institution in the UK, it has more creditability than the government and more coverage than Coca-Cola, literally everyone consumes it. A recent survey showed that 75 percent of Brits use the BBC, in one of its many forms, as their main source of news. Or in other words 45 million people use it, watch it, listen to it or read it every day.
“We are in Dubrovnik doing a story about tourism and it has been suggested that we talk to you,” continued the journalist. Of course I agreed, I mean how can you say no to your favourite Auntie. Apart from the wanting to talk about tourism I didn’t really have much more information, what would they ask?
Then from nowhere my mind played tricks on me – I hope they don’t ask me about the Lapad Beach! The reason for this is that this bloody beach has been plaguing me and filling my inbox over the past month. Every day I receive an email from an English tourist worried that the construction work will spoil their hard-earned holiday. I started to make up questions they could ask – “Are you surprised that beach still isn’t finished” – “No, I would be more surprised if it had been finished on time” – What makes you say that?” – “Experience.” Or maybe they would ask me about the new Marina Frapa - “Are you surprised that marina still isn’t finished” – “No, I would be more surprised if it had been finished on time” – What makes you say that?” – “Experience.” Yes, I pretty much had my lines ready for all situations.
We meet at the agreed location and at the agreed time and the picture became clearer. “I was here on holiday for two days with my partner last month and was surprised at the number of cruise ships in the city,” he started as the cameraman set up next to him. Ah, so it was the same question that city has been playing with since the beginning of time – cruise ships. They had done their research that’s for sure. They had comparisons with other Mediterranean destinations at the ready, exact passenger number and had obviously read a lot. “Is Dubrovnik being ruined by the cruise ships and the thousands of passengers?” came the first question. Blimey these guys were going straight for the jugular, no small talk here, straight to the heart of the problem. This was followed by “Should tourists start to avoid Dubrovnik and look to explore other parts of Croatia?” again straight as an arrow to the heart of the question. And as much as I started off wanting to defend the city and be as diplomatic as possible I realised that I can’t defend something that is killing Dubrovnik.
“When I was younger taking a cruise was a luxury thing to do, it was a status symbol and an elite way to see the world, those days are long gone. Now this is quite simply the lowest form of mass tourism, and mass tourism that rapes and pillages a destination (I thought of a Viking reference that was symbolic as boats were involved in both cases) and in the long term will suck the blood out of it and leave behind an empty shell,” I answered.
The journalist looked a little shocked, “well that’s an honest answer.” I nodded “You asked my opinion, that’s my opinion.” If there was anything positive to drain out of the situation believe me I would have tried. I was always try my hardest to find the good in people, to find the positive side of anything, but id something smells like a shit, looks like a shit then there is probably a good chance that it is a shit. I can’t see anything glamorous or luxury about being imprisoned in floating hotel along with thousands and thousands people. And right behind us as we were filming were three huge floating monstrosities, yes the journalists from the BBC had chosen their position very well.
“Cruise ship companies are still convincing plumbers from Torino and bus drivers from Liverpool that this is travelling in first class, this isn’t first class, business class or even economy class, this is cattle class, pack them in like sardines and use destinations as bus stops on a carousel that goes nowhere and sees nothing,” I concluded. “Thank you for your honesty,” the filming ended.