Spanish bombs pose test of tourists' nerve

Holidaymakers and operators defiant as devices in Costa Brava hotels follow airport explosion
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A bomb was discovered in a Spanish holiday hotel yesterday afternoon, as survivors of Saturday night's explosion at Reus airport were still recovering in hospital. The discovery brings to four the number of bombs planted in 24 hours by the Basque separatist group Eta.

Only hours after the blast, which left 34 people injured, 21 of them British, Spanish bomb disposal experts defused a device hidden in a ground floor cloakroom of the three-star Delfin Park Hotel in Salou.

Spanish hotel owners and tour operators admitted they were seriously worried about the repercussions of the latest bombing campaign on the tourist trade. But back in Britain, tour operators were playing down the potential impact of the bombs and even tourists caught up in Saturday night's drama were vowing they would be back before long.

"People realise that this can happen just as easily on the streets of London as it can in Spain, Turkey and Egypt," said Russell Amerasekera, communications director for Thomson holidays, the tour operator through which the injured tourists had booked.

Yesterday, a Lancashire couple described how they missed the airport bomb by a matter of minutes. Safely back at their home in the tiny village of Billington, near Clitheroe, Eileen Parker, 52, a mill worker, said: "I feel awful and can't believe I'm still alive. You always think it will be someone else until you get caught up in it. I was in Manchester just the day before the bomb went off. They say lighting never strikes twice, but for some people it can."

But despite their ordeal, Mrs Parker and her husband, Alan, plan to return to Spain. Alan, 58, who works in a foundry, said: "We've been before and we'll go again. There's no way they are going to stop us visiting a place we love."

Richard Grummitt, of Thomas Cook, reinforced the image of the "stiff upper lip" Brit. "Based on previous experience, most people say: "I've booked my holiday and I'm going. The British are pretty resilient. They seem quite determined to have their one or two weeks' holiday. The only big issue we've had was people wanting to cancel during the British Airways dispute. People thought they wouldn't be able to go on holiday and wanted to make alternative arrangements."

Keith Betton, head of corporate affairs at the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), said Britons had a habit of turning a blind eye to trouble spots. "Take the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey. They have been threatening terrorism for the last four years. It affected the German market, but the number of British visitors to Turkey has doubled. We've had Egypt, where the Islamic fundamentalists have fired shots at boats going up and down the Nile. That had a lot more impact."

But he does not believe British holiday makers will become "fanatical" about the situation in Spain. "Four and a half million British people go to Spain this summer. Putting it crudely, even if four people had been shot dead it's one in a million. Eta attempts to make a lot of noise, a lot of smoke and a few headlines in the papers the next day. We hope that that's the kind of tactic they keep to, rather than aiming to hurt people".