Rebuild Dubrovnik Fund Comes Close to Completing Mission

By Nadine Godwin

GLASGOW, Scotland -- The Rebuild Dubrovnik Fund, which has raised $350,000 to pay for repairs to the war-damaged medieval walled city in Croatia, might be close to completing its job, according to Earlene Causey, president of the fund.

She said the project, launched five years ago by ASTA and Dubrovnik-based Atlas Travel, has funded repairs mostly to churches, palaces and schools. The efforts initially were aimed at restoring roofs, she said, in order to save the building interiors. One later project focused on repairing the inside of the 15th century Synagogue of Dubrovnik. It is slated to reopen on Oct. 2, in time for Rosh Hashana, according to Causey, a former president of ASTA.

The group is now turning to a final project, the restoration of the Library of the Franciscan Monastery, a major project that will require $160,000. The monastery along with the Ducal Palace in Zadar, is one of two Croatian buildings on the World Monument Watch list of most endangered cultural sites. This listing will make it easier to raise funds, Causey said.

Meanwhile, she reported, the fund's board may decide before year-end that the library project will be the group's last. She said the board expects the group's work will have been completed by sometime next year. Already, she said, "tourism is back, the cruise lines are calling there" and more than a dozen U.S. tour operators included Croatia in their brochures this year.

Pave Zupan-Ruskovic, president of Atlas Travel and president of the ASTA Croatia chapter, said 3.6 million foreign visitors went to Croatia in the first eight months of this year, up 45% compared with the same period last year. Of those, 35,000 were Americans. She said the 3.6 million figure still is only 70% of peak numbers reported in 1990, before Croatia's fight for independence from Yugoslavia.

She said that in the next year, all hotel renovation projects are expected to be completed, and "they will look better than before the war." With the entire hotel plant in condition to receive visitors, she said, the 1998 numbers are expected to match those of 1990.

She also reported that the World Bank recently made $65 million available to protect the Adriatic Sea from pollution.

Causey, who revisited Croatia en route to ASTA's congress here, said, "Conditions are just super. You can hardly tell any damage was done." She urged ASTA agents to spread the word that Croatia is up and running as a tourist destination and that it is a safe destination, as well.

Meanwhile, Zupan-Ruskovic reported that Croatia Airlines will open an office in Parsippany, N.J., at the end of this month.

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