Tourism helps heal scars of war

Kevin Skrepnek, Contributor Ω

Sarajevo, May 2007. Photo by David Dufresne/ Flickr Creative Commons

Sarajevo, May 2007. Photo by David Dufresne/ Flickr Creative Commons

Before the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s, hospitality was a staple of everyday life. Now with tourists coming back to the region, it has become vital once again.

Senija Causevic, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of London, spoke to a room of approximately 30 in the Campus Activity Centre on Feb. 7 as part of International Days.

A first-hand witness of the Balkan wars, Causevic delved in to the repercussion of this new-found tourism industry. When North American and Western European backpackers began appearing on the streets and in the hostels of Sarajevo, a city that had been under siege for almost four years, the local residents knew the war was truly over, she said.

While some view travel to this region as “dark tourism,” an exploitative field trip to troubled areas by privileged foreigners, Causevic sees it differently. In her view, by opening their country to outside visitors and lying bare the atrocities that have occurred there, Bosnian-Herzegovians have begun to normalize and reconcile with the violence of their past. For many, the uncomfortable discussions that arise when guiding visitors through the former battlegrounds that form their neighbourhoods have become, in Causevic’s words, a “mechanism of catharsis.”

It’s her hope that the hospitality so ingrained in the region’s culture will ensure that outsiders are continued to be welcomed and continue to be made part of the healing process in this war-torn part of the world.