Vienna topples Melbourne in ‘most liveable city’ ranking

It is the first time a European metropolis has topped the annual chart compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit which identifies the best urban playgrounds to live and work in. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2018
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Vienna topples Melbourne in ‘most liveable city’ ranking

  • Each year 140 cities are given scores out of 100 on a range of factors such as living standards, crime and transport infrastructure
  • Vienna scored a ‘near-ideal’ 99.1, beating Melbourne into second place on 98.4

LONDON: Austria’s capital Vienna has beaten Melbourne to be ranked the “world’s most liveable city” in a new annual survey released Monday, ending the southern Australian city’s seven-year reign.

It is the first time a European metropolis has topped the annual chart compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit which identifies the best urban playgrounds to live and work in.

Each year 140 cities are given scores out of 100 on a range of factors such as living standards, crime, transport infrastructure, access to education and health care, as well as political and economic stability.

Vienna scored a “near-ideal” 99.1, beating Melbourne into second place on 98.4. Japan’s Osaka took third place.

Australia and Canada dominated the top ten, each boasting three cities. Australia had Melbourne, Sydney (fifth) and Adelaide (10th) while Canada had Calgary (fourth), Vancouver (sixth) and Toronto (joint seventh).

“Those that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries,” researchers said in their report.

They noted that several cities in the top 10 had relatively low population densities which fostered “a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure.”

Australia and Canada, researchers said, have an overall average population density of 3.2 and four people per square kilometer respectively, compared to a global average of 58.

Japan, which alongside Osaka boasted Tokyo in the top ten (joint seventh), is the glaring exception to that rule with a nationwide average of 347 people per square kilometer but its cities are still famed for their transport networks and living standards.

Copenhagen was the only other European city in the top ten at ninth place.

Researchers said wealthy financial capitals such as Paris (19th), London (48th) and New York (57th) tended to be “victims of their own success” with higher crime rates and overstretched infrastructure dampening their appeal.

At the other end of the spectrum the five worst cities to live in were Damascus at the bottom of the table followed by Dhaka, Lagos, Karachi and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.

The survey also looked at cities where long-term improvements had been made. Abidjan, Hanoi, Belgrade and Tehran saw the largest improvements in liveability over the last five years — more than five percentage points.

Ukraine’s Kiev, the capital of a European country wracked by political violence, civil war and the loss of Crimea to Russia, saw the largest drop in its liveability over the last five years (-12.6 percent).

Puerto Rico’s San Juan — which was devastated by a hurricane last year — as well as Damascus and Caracas also saw steep drops over the same period.


Mass tourism threatens Croatia’s ‘Game of Thrones’ town

Updated 21 September 2018
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Mass tourism threatens Croatia’s ‘Game of Thrones’ town

DUBROVNIK, Croatia: Marc van Bloemen has lived in the old town of Dubrovnik, a Croatian citadel widely praised as the jewel of the Adriatic, for decades, since he was a child. He says it used to be a privilege. Now it’s a nightmare.
Crowds of tourists clog the entrances to the ancient walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as huge cruise ships unload thousands more daily. People bump into each other on the famous limestone-paved Stradun, the pedestrian street lined with medieval churches and palaces, as fans of the popular TV series “Game of Thrones” search for the locations where it was filmed.
Dubrovnik is a prime example of the effects of mass tourism, a global phenomenon in which the increase in people traveling means standout sites — particularly small ones — get overwhelmed by crowds. As the numbers of visitors keeps rising, local authorities are looking for ways to keep the throngs from killing off the town’s charm.
“It’s beyond belief, it’s like living in the middle of Disneyland,” says van Bloemen from his house overlooking the bustling Old Harbor in the shadows of the stone city walls.
On a typical day there are about eight cruise ships visiting this town of 2,500 people, each dumping some 2,000 tourists into the streets. He recalls one day when 13 ships anchored here.
“We feel sorry for ourselves, but also for them (the tourists) because they can’t feel the town anymore because they are knocking into other tourists,” he said. “It’s chaos, the whole thing is chaos.”
The problem is hurting Dubrovnik’s reputation. UNESCO warned last year that the city’s world heritage title was at risk because of the surge in tourist numbers.
The popular Discoverer travel blog recently wrote that a visit to the historic town “is a highlight of any Croatian vacation, but the crowds that pack its narrow streets and passageways don’t make for a quality visitor experience.”
It said that the extra attention the city gets from being a filming location for “Game of Thrones” combines with the cruise ship arrivals to create “a problem of epic proportions.”
It advises travelers to visit other quaint old towns nearby: “Instead of trying to be one of the lucky ones who gets a ticket to Dubrovnik’s sites, try the delightful town of Ohrid in nearby Macedonia.”
In 2017, local authorities announced a “Respect the City” plan that limits the number of tourists from cruise ships to a maximum of 4,000 at any one time during the day. The plan still has to be implemented, however.
“We are aware of the crowds,” said Romana Vlasic, the head of the town’s tourist board.
But while on the one hand she pledged to curb the number of visitors, Vlasic noted with some satisfaction that this season in Dubrovnik “is really good with a slight increase in numbers.” The success of the Croatian national soccer team at this summer’s World Cup, where it reached the final, helped bring new tourists new tourists.
Vlasic said that over 800,000 tourists visited Dubrovnik since the start of the year, a 6 percent increase from the same period last year. Overnight stays were up 4 percent to 3 million.
The cruise ships pay the city harbor docking fees, but the local businesses get very little money from the visitors, who have all-inclusive packages on board the ship and spend very little on local restaurants or shops.
Krunoslav Djuricic, who plays his electric guitar at Pile, one of the two main entrances of Dubrovnik’s walled city, sees the crowds pass by him all day and believes that “mass tourism might not be what we really need.”
The tourists disembarking from the cruise ships have only a few hours to visit the city, meaning they often rush around to see the sites and take selfies to post to social media.
“We have crowds of people who are simply running,” Djuricic says. “Where are these people running to?“