Israelis Still Expected to Visit Barcelona, Travel Officials Say

YERUSHALAYIM -
Armed police officers patrol a deserted street in Las Ramblas, in Barcelona, Spain, Friday. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Twelve hours after the car ramming terror attack in Barcelona that killed 13 and injured dozens, 28 Israelis are still unaccounted for, the Foreign Ministry said. However, the Ministry added that, to its knowledge, no Israelis are among the dead or wounded from the attack on a main street in the Catalonian region of Spain. Neither are there any Israelis injured in the earlier attack that occurred in Spain on Thursday, in the city of Cambrils, an attack which left seven injured.

Thousands of Israelis are in Barcelona and its vicinity at this time, the height of the summer vacation season. On Thursday night, executives of the country’s biggest providers of travel insurance met and decided to allow families who wished to return home to use their policies to pay for ticket changes that they would incur if they left Spain before they were scheduled to. Israel’s cellphone service firms also are allowing Israelis in Barcelona to call family or friends at home at no charge.

Besides being a summer destination, Barcelona is a major center for business conferences, and is the home of the world’s largest mobile conference, usually held in January, and very popular with Israelis. Speaking to Yisrael Hayom, tourism officials said they did not expect the terror attack to have long term effects on the popularity of Barcelona as a vacation or business destination.

“There is no question that this is a difficult situation,” said Yehuda Zafrani, chairman of Express Tours. “But these attacks are now common all over the world. I don’t foresee any effect on tourism because of this, not in the long term or even in the short term.”

Ori Alon, head of the Gulliver travel agency, agreed. “Israelis are used to terror attacks, and I don’t think this is going to influence their choice of where to vacation. The benefits of a vacation in Barcelona far outweigh the risks.”