NEW YORK -- With floods that caused some $21.5 billion in damage in
central Europe finally receding, travel agents and tour operators
to the Czech Republic began to sound the all-clear, but those
selling Dresden and other towns in a still-swamped eastern Germany
remained wary but hopeful.
Tampa, Fla., agency Exeter International -- which, at the height
of the flooding, had sent a tour group bound for the Four Seasons
in Prague to St. Petersburg, Russia, instead -- is sending clients
to the Czech capital again, booking them into hotels in drier areas
near Wenceslas Square and Prague Castle.
"By and large, it appears people can still visit the attractions
they'd planned on seeing before [the floods]," said manager Joe
Sandillo, who said many Prague hotels remain booked solid from
early- to mid-September.
Moreover, the Czech Tourist Authority said "most areas are
functioning normally and there is no danger to visitors," which was
confirmed by Evza Bilkova, founder of Prague ground operator Happy
Journey, who personally inspected several city hotels and
"[In] my opinion ... clients staying in Prague will not have
problems," she said.
Although the Inter-Continental Praha, Ibis Karlin and Hilton
Prague joined the Four Seasons in closing for repairs to electrical
systems, properties such as the Radisson SAS, Palace, Marriott and
the Ambassador suffered no damage.
However, subway service remains limited in the city center and
repairs across the city could cost millions, if not billions.
Elsewhere in the Czech Republic, the Renaissance town of Cesky
Krumlov completed its cleanup and officials "relaunched" its
tourism season in an Aug. 19 ceremony; to the west, spa favorites
Marianske Lazne and Karlovy Vary remained high and dry throughout
The picture was improving in eastern Germany, as well.
While the German National Tourist Office (GNTO) in New York
described baroque Dresden -which had borne the brunt of an Elbe
River rising 30 feet higher than usual -- as "returning to normal,"
serious damage was done to landmarks such as the Zwinger Palace
Museum and the Semperoper opera house, which reportedly is
refunding 150,000 tickets for its now-delayed fall
Still, many Dresden museums -- including the Albertinum, which
houses the imperial crown jewels -- were reopening, as were most
major hotels, a GNTO spokesman said.
Meanwhile, dikes and sandbags appeared to have kept the Elbe
from overrunning Unesco-protected sites in the cities of Dessau,
Wittenberg and Magdeburg, said Christine Lambrecht, marketing
director for the Dessau Tourist Office.
River cruise operator Peter Deilmann Cruises canceled its Aug.
24 sailing from Dresden -- the company's second postponement in two
weeks on Elbe routes -- and was reserving judgment on the next
departure, set for Aug. 31.
Other operators and agents varied in their responses. Exeter
International, for example, rebooked FIT clients due to arrive in
Dresden in early September on alternate Berlin and Poland
Similarly, Elbe river operator Unique World Cruises is routing a
group of clients who were to sail from Prague to Dresden and
Meissen on Aug. 31 on a Krakow-Warsaw-Berlin land itinerary
"We expect that our Elbe cruises will sail as of Sept. 7," said
Misha Radulovic, president of the Manhasset, N.Y.-based company.
"But in the meantime, our clients love [the alternate
For its part, operator Smolka Tours in Tinton Falls, N.J., hopes
a group of clients will be able to visit Dresden in late
"We're waiting to see how the cleanup goes," a spokeswoman said.
"We would like to support the affected areas when they need it
most, much as New York needed help after Sept. 11."