Poland’s Krakow is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Central Europe, as it attracted over 3 million international visitors per year on a regular basis before the Covid-19 pandemic. However, now the city is dealing with a serious problem which is likely to affect their tourism status.
Krakow has recently been declared the most polluted city in the world. Specifically, on December 14 the dust concentration exceeded 400 %.
The debate about the impact of poor air quality on Krakow’s status as a popular tourist destination has been going on for at least a decade. In 2013, there were billboards stating "No Smoging, Please. One Life. One Krakow. One Click". The billboards were supposed to encourage people to sign a petition to introduce a ban on coal burning.
The mayor of Krakow, Jacek Majchrowski, was then afraid that such activities would scare away foreign tourists and harm the city’s reputation.
In 2018, the foreign press regularly wrote about the smog issue in Poland, describing Krakow as the most popular travel destination among tourists, but also the most polluted city in the country.
Moreover, a few years ago media and tourists from Scandinavian countries claimed that people who travelled to Krakow from the region felt certain ailments related to poor air quality in the city.
However, the core of the problem does not lie in Krakow itself, but in the so-called obwarzanek krakowski, i.e. owners of single-family houses around Krakow, who, in an attempt to save money, heat their properties with coal.
In this context, the Lesser Poland Voivodeship has allocated 60 million PLN for the replacement of stoves throughout the region and introducing a ban on non-class coal boilers. This regulation will enter into force in 2023, while the city continues to suffocate at the present time.
The president of the Lesser Poland Tourist Organization, Grzegorz Biedroń, is sceptical in this aspect and predicts that “the problem with air quality will bring serious consequences for Krakow’s tourism”.