Life & Leisure

Palestine and Israel hope to attract tourists despite war

By Javier Picazo Feliú

Madrid, Jan 25 (EFE) – Both Israel and Palestine have acquired stands at the Madrid International Tourism Fair (FITUR) with the purpose of informing visitors and showing that tourism does not understand war.

“In tourism we don’t know war, in tourism we only know how to talk about peace. We know that this situation will eventually end, that peace will prevail and currently there are Israeli operators who continue to work and collaborate with their Palestinian counterparts,” Dolores Pérez Frías, director of the Israel Tourism Board in Spain, told EFE.

The Israeli stand, located in Hall 4 of the fair, showcases the country’s main tourist destinations located far from the conflict in Gaza, which has claimed the lives of nearly 25,700 Gazans, including more than 10,000 children.

Nearby, in the area dedicated to Asia in Hall 6, is the Palestinian stand, where Majed Ishaq, director general of the marketing department of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism, explained that the purpose of participating in the fair is to defend the Palestinian flag as “an international commitment.”

With this in mind, Palestine has never missed the Tourism Fair in Madrid, it has always come “despite very difficult times. But this year we especially wanted to be here. We insisted on coming”.

“There’s a political value for us to be here,” adds Ishaq, who also believes in the need to support tour operators who work with Palestine, after some 1,000 trips were recently canceled.

The director says that during the fair they have received “the enormous solidarity of Spain,” having been able to provide visitors with first-hand information about what is happening in Gaza.

“Many of our visitors are pilgrims, but we have noticed that, since the conflict began, many young people want to know more about Palestine and have told us that the first thing they want to do when the war is over is to go there and meet its people. Many have cried upon learning our history.”

Despite the suspension of tourism, Ishaq expects that “travelers will return once the conflict is over, so we must continue to promote the destination.”

As for the Israeli representative, she assures that “regaining confidence will take time. There’s no antidote for fear.”

“Amidst of the pain, life is normal,” Pérez Frías says. “The museums are open, the restaurants are running. And the first groups (of tourists) from Spain are arriving to do the whole religious tour. They are doing it and they are telling us that they are visiting everything they had planned. And that is news. The conflict is far from the tourist route,” she says.

“In terms of tourism, we have a decline. Three airlines have stopped flying. We are at 5% of the regular tourists that in terms of those we (usually) have in December. We fully understand the anxiety. The day this is resolved, it will take time to regain confidence,” she concludes. EFE

jpf/ics/mcd

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