Minister to visit Bulgaria: 'Terror won't stop tourism'

Tourism Minister Misezhnikov to visit Balkan nation after terror attack that killed 5, says "terrorism will not disrupt our lives and stop our aspirations"; scheduled to hold ceremony at site of attack.

July 22, 2012 20:26
2 minute read.
Bulgaria bus bomb.

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 between nationalities.

“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.”

The 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.

He 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.

The delegation, 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.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opened Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting remembering the victims of the attack, and discussing the “heart-rending scenes at the funerals.”

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 for burial.

“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.”

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