NEW YORK -- Several operators reported a slowdown in new Europe
bookings following the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia,
particularly those with programs to destinations bordering the
country, but cancellations have been few so far.
Operators expressed concern over the potential impact of the
campaign -- and anti-American and anti-NATO demonstrations that
followed in some European capitals -but most predicted that if the
Kosovo conflict remains contained, peak-season travel to western
Europe would not be affected.
The tourism destination most likely to feel an impact is
Croatia, a country that emerged from its own war for independence
to draw more than a half-dozen tour operators this year. Most
programs concentrate on Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian coast on the
Central Holidays was set to launch a Croatia program this spring
with seven itineraries, but a spokesman for the Englewood Cliffs,
N.J.-based firm said, "Nobody is going to book Croatia while there
is war in a neighboring province, so the program is on hold."
The same goes for the Air Europe charter service Central
Holidays was planning to operate to Split, Croatia, and Tivat,
Montenegro, which is part of Yugoslavia.
If the crisis continues beyond April 16, the service, which
represents the first direct flights from the U.S. to Croatia and
Montenegro, might be postponed until next year, the company
Other operators to Croatia, however, including Atlas Travel,
which is based in Dubrovnik and has an office in Washington, and
GlobalQuest (formerly OdessaAmerica) in Mineola, N.Y., reported few
Echoing many of the operators to the former Eastern Bloc,
GlobalQuest's vice president of operations, Katja Ciprijan, said
people who were planning to visit Croatia "are already
sophisticated enough to choose an adventurous destination. They are
informed and know there is no danger there."
Another destination involved in the Kosovo conflict is Italy,
home to several NATO air bases near the Adriatic coast. "There was
some concern [from clients] about Venice, which is in the region of
the Aviano air base," said Vinicio Cantatore, vice president of
"In fact, there are seven or eight air bases near Venice, and we
were concerned that civilian air traffic might have been hampered,
but it hasn't been," he said, adding that bookings have not been
affected by the NATO action.
The Kosovo conflict has however, had an impact on tourism to
Italy's Puglia region, where three air bases are located, according
to Gino di Nallo, president of TourItalia in Chicago. "We have not
yet had any cancellations, but I expect we will because the
airports [Bari and Brindisi] are closed," said di Nallo.
Bookings to other countries bordering Yugoslavia, such as
Romania and Bulgaria, are about 20% off where they should be, saod
Cezary Cwintal, president of Balkan Holidays, but there have been
only two cancellations.
Another NATO member, Turkey, does not border Yugoslavia but is a
vocal supporter of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, who are fleeing Serb
aggression. Turkey is also dealing with the fallout from a rash of
car bombings and terrorist threats against tourists by the
Kurdistan Workers' Party.
Mazhar Pepemehmet, vice president and general manager of U.S.
operations for Turkey's Pacha Tours here, said, "We have had some
cancellations for Turkey. We can't pinpoint a [dramatic] drop in
business yet since this has been going on for just a few days." He
said it was too early to worry about the summer season yet.
On the other end of the spectrum is Greece, where protests
against NATO reflect the country's ties to the Serbs, who share
their Orthodox Christian faith.
Nick Athans, president of New York-based Tourlite, said, "The
present state of affairs in Kosovo is causing many of the problems
we all experienced during the Persian Gulf War. Bookings this week,
traditionally part of a high booking period, are [less than] last
year's. While last year we had 100 bookings a day, the past week we
have had 50 bookings."
Another site of anti-NATO protests was Russia, where bookings
are down "significantly," said Bob Drumm, president of General
Tours in Keene, N.H. "Unfortunately, our actions in Kosovo are
giving nationalists in Russia another lease on life. But I just
came back from Moscow, and anti-American sentiment is not
widespread. The Russians I spoke with said they have so many other
problems, they are not worried about what's happening in
Meanwhile, cruise lines were looking at alternatives for the
Adriatic ports of Venice and Dubrovnik because of their proximity
to Kosovo, but no published itineraries had been changed yet. Ships
due in the Adriatic in the coming weeks include Holland America's
Maasdam, and Cunard's Vistafjord, which are scheduled to make port
calls in Venice and Dubrovnik in April.
Several lines, including Costa and Royal Caribbean, have ships
scheduled to be in the Adriatic in May. In June and July, Peter
Deilmann has river cruises scheduled to visit Belgrade on the
Danube Princess and the Mozart. "We all hope the situation is over
by then," a spokeswoman said.
Fran Golden, Linda Humphrey, Carla Hunt and Felicity Long
contributed to this report.