Bulgaria bus bomb 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov will lead a delegation of top tourism officials
to Bulgaria on Monday in a symbolic visit designed to show that terrorism will
not stop travel to the country.
Meseznikov said that when terrorism hit
Israel in the past, and various countries warned against traveling to Israel,
local reaction was that “terrorism knows no boundaries” and makes no distinction
“Despite the sadness and concern, we cannot be
deterred or give in,” he said.
“Terrorism will not disrupt our lives and
stop our aspirations. Tourism is a bridge to peace, understanding and
dialogue between nations and it has the power to strengthen our mutual
relationship with the Bulgarian people and the Bulgarian government.”
visit comes amid reports of numerous cancellations to the Bulgarian Black Sea
resorts of Burgas and Varna which were primed to receive tens of thousands of
Israeli tourists this summer.
Meseznikov, the highest level Israeli
official to travel to Bulgaria since Wednesday’s attack on Israeli tourists, is
scheduled to meet with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, Prime Minister Boyko
Borisov, Economic and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev, as well as with the mayors
of Burgas and Varna, the two major tourist destinations for Israelis.
will, according to the Tourism Ministry, be carrying a “business as usual”
message, and emphasize the need “not to give in to terrorism and to strengthen
the tourism relationship with Bulgaria.”
The first six months of 2012 saw
an 11 percent increase in Israelis visiting Bulgaria over the same period in
2011. According to the Bulgarian Tourism Ministry, some 139,000 Israelis visited
Bulgaria in 2011.
Meseznikov will be accompanied by senior
representatives of the Israeli tourism industry.
according to the ministry, will discuss efforts to promote mutual tourism with
their Bulgarian counterparts, to maintain Israeli tourism to Bulgaria and
increase traffic from that country.
Last year, only some 8,000 Bulgarian
tourists visited Israel.
Meseznikov is set to visit the main hotels and
tourism sites frequented by Israelis – as well as meet with members of the
Bulgarian Jewish community. He will also hold an official memorial ceremony at
the site of the attack that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus
driver at the Burgas airport, and lay a wreath on behalf of Israel.
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opened Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting remembering
the victims of the attack, and discussing the “heart-rending scenes at the
Netanyahu praised the way in which the country’s various
organizations – the IDF, the rescue and medical services, the Foreign Ministry
and the Interior Ministry – stepped up in the time of crisis to go to Bulgaria
and help those injured and traumatized by the blast, and bring the victims home
“That really reflects the mutual responsibility for one
another that is the foundation of our lives, and I want to say that the State of
Israel is responsible for its citizens wherever they are, or wherever they may
be,” he said.
Netanyahu added that Israel would “continue to fight
forcefully against terror, both against those who carry out attacks and those
who send them.”