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"Mladic Legacy" Tour – Response

Political Tours director sets out company’s position on tourist visits to Bosnia and Serbia.
By Nicholas Wood

Earlier this month, IWPR raised Bosnians’ genuine concerns about tour companies “making money” out of the tragic events of 20 years ago, and reported criticism of our company’s upcoming tour in Bosnia.

Unfortunately for us the article contained a series of inaccuracies, and failed to fairly report the depth and extent we at Political Tours go to analyse the events of 1992-95, and where Bosnia is headed today.

The article does however raise a serious and genuine question: how should Bosnia present itself to outsiders keen to know about its recent past and present?

To my mind, the events of that time represent a blot on the conscience of Europe. It stood by and watched Sarajevo besieged and shelled while doing little. Even after Srebrenica, Europe and the United States were slow to act.

Thankfully, Bosnia has changed enormously since the end of the war and attracts thousands of tourists each year. Bosnia has much to offer in term of natural beauty and history. But wouldn’t it be odd for visitors to go to the country and ignore what happened during the war? I think it is actually the duty of most tourists to learn about both its terrible past, and what it has to offer now.

The disappointing impression left by IWPR’s recent article is that we want to sell thrills to “war zone” tourists. Our aims are very serious – our website urges participants to read up by accessing 14 books and websites. I hardly think reading Noel Malcolm’s history of Bosnia would appeal to “hedonistic adventurers”.

We also believe that Bosnians should tell the story of their country. Bar Kate Adie and Louis Sell, nearly all of the speakers on our tour are from the region, and not “solely foreigners”.

But we also want to offer people with a serious interest in Bosnia the opportunity to learn about constitutional reform, war crimes justice, and negotiations on European Union membership. Analysts look at the obstacles to reform.

Again, this is hardly frivolous material.

While this can seem quite dry, we have to balance things with visits to communities and situations that illustrate current trends in real life. We visit Gorazde and look at relations between Serbs and Bosniaks there. In Belgrade, we see how Serbian ultra- nationalists used sport, football in particular, to promote their image – from Arkan to the Ultras.

While I have my own opinions about the region, we enable visitors to pose their own questions and make up their own minds. All this I hope should add to a greater understanding of the region, and that has to be in Bosnia and Serbia’s interest.

Nicholas Wood is director of Political Tours.

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