Brussels Terror Attack Unlikely to Deter Israeli Travelers From Europe

Belgium isn't a major tourist destination for Israelis, while business travelers are likely to keep on flying.

The Eiffel Tower is seen with the black, yellow and red colors of the Belgian flag in tribute to the victims of today's Brussels bomb attacks, Paris, France, March 22, 2016.
Reuters

They have had to cope with two major terror attacks in the space of four days, but Israeli tourism executives said on Tuesday they thought security fears would do little to deter Israeli travelers from European excursions this summer.

“I don’t think an attack like this can affect demand for Europe because things calm down and are quickly forgotten,” said Dana Lavie, vice president of the travel site Daka 90, after three bombs killed about 35 people in Brussels on Tuesday. On Saturday, four people, including three Israelis, were killed in a bombing in Istanbul.

“Of course, it depends how the situation develops, but right now I don’t think this will reduce demand from Israelis for those destinations, especially as the attack wasn’t directed at Israelis,” she said.

Neither Istanbul nor Brussels are major tourist destinations for Israelis. Travel to Turkey has never recovered from the crisis in diplomatic relations sparked by the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, while Brussels is mostly off the beaten path for Israelis visiting Europe.

“Most of the traffic is business people and people in the diamond industry or those who continue from Brussels to other global destinations and land there only to make a connection,” said Ronen Carasso, vice president for marketing at the travel agency ISSTA.

He estimated that only about 55,000 Israelis travel to Belgium every year, less than a fifth the number who go to Germany. Both Tel Aviv and the Belgian city of Antwerp are major diamond-polishing centers, which supports a lot of business traffic, but industry sources said business travelers were unlikely to be deterred by the violence.

There is one tourism segment, however, that might be affected – summertime family trips that use Brussels as a base for trips to Paris and Amsterdam, said Yigal Avni, CEO of Carmel Tours, who estimated that about 20,000 people take that route in July-August every year.

“When the messes in Brussels and Paris began, they began to be seen by Israelis as less secure places and the big travel wholesalers began asking themselves if in 2016 people will be afraid to travel there,” Avni said.

“The gamble was that, with their short memory, Israelis would forget the events. But with the events now there is a real fear that the double blow will deter families that have been thinking about such trips this summer.”