Despite Unrest In Belgrade, Trafalgar Won't Scrap Itinerary

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Reed Travel Features

NEW YORK -- Trafalgar Tours' Forgotten Europe, an eastern Europe itinerary that spends two nights in Belgrade, Serbia, is not what operators would call a top seller.

Actually, there have been no U.S. bookings for the spring-summer tour so far, according to vice president Peter McKormack.

However, as of press time, Trafalgar had no plans to cancel Forgotten Europe, a 17-day program that also includes Ukraine, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia.

"We are planning to develop more tours to eastern Europe and the former Yugoslavia, so this tour is an investment," McKormack said.

"Of course, we couldn't predict that there would be daily protests in Belgrade when we came up with Forgotten Europe," said McKormack, referring to continuing demonstrations against the nation's president in Serbia's capital .

He added that if the protests had not erupted, the tour would have attracted a "fair number" of Americans.

Agents would be hard-pressed to find Belgrade in other U.S. operators' programs.

Unlike neighboring Croatia, which attracted millions of tourists to its coastal resorts before war broke out in Yugoslavia in 1990, Serbia was a less-traditional tourism destination for Americans.

Then there is Serbia's negative image in the U.S. as a result of the war.

Explaining Trafalgar's decision, McKormack said the firm sells to other English markets besides the U.S. that tend to be less skittish about returning to former war zones.

Americans comprise 39% of Trafalgar's clients; the remainder come from Great Britain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and other English-speaking markets.

Tours to eastern Europe have been among Trafalgar's most popular U.S. products.

But McKormack acknowledged that it might take a few years before Americans got used to Serbia as a vacation destination.

"Americans are more conservative than many nationalities when it comes to travel," he said.

"After the [Persian] Gulf war, it took several years before Americans felt comfortable traveling outside of their country; it took Australians one week."

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