After Terrorist Attacks, School Excursions to Spain in Doubt

By 20 August 2017

About 20 million kunas have been paid by students and their parents for school trips to Spain in the next month.

About 6,000 to 8,000 Croatian high school students are scheduled to visit Barcelona in the next month, and the trips were paid a long time ago, according to travel agencies which organise the trips. If the excursions were to be canceled due to recent terrorist attacks, parents would not get a single kuna back, because the travel agencies have already forwarded the money to their Spanish partners, reports Jutarnji List on August 20, 2017.

The price of the excursion for a single student is a little over 3,000 kunas, depending on the accommodation facilities and the locations which are planned for sightseeing. It is estimated that between 18 to 24 million kunas have been paid for trips to Spain. If school principals now decide that students will not travel to Barcelona, ​​there is not much that can be done.

“The agency has paid millions of kuna for accommodation and other expenses, and that money cannot be returned to us. Therefore, we cannot return anything to the parents. I think the Education Minister’s recommendation for students not to go to Barcelona was wrong because there is no plan how the problem will be solved. She should have offered a solution right away. Will the Ministry refund the money to parents? We will not be able to do that,” says Goran Vukov Colić, director of the Spektar travel agency, which organises a large number of school excursions to Spain.

He adds that, for now, no school has cancelled the trip, but they have been contacted by a number of school principals who do not know what to do. On the one hand, there is a potential security threat and a recommendation of the Ministry, but on the other hand there is a fact that no city in the world is completely safe. The principals are waiting for the decisions of school boards, after which they will see with the agencies what can be done.

Vukov Colić believes that the problem has been created unnecessarily since children who travel to Spain do not sleep in Barcelona itself, but 90 to 100 kilometres away from the city. They visit Barcelona just for a day trip, which can be cancelled in case there is fear of another terrorist attack. Therefore, there is no need to cancel any excursions. The free day can easily be used to visit some other town in the area or on some other activity.

“We all are looking for a solution, but I think that it would be best to delay the excursions for a month. In that way, kids will get to see Spain, they will not have to pay anything extra, and their security will not be compromised in any way. But, that decision is not for us to be made, but for the parents,” says Vukov Colić.

At the moment, parents are divided. While some believe that they should not endanger the safety of their children and that the money paid is not important, others say that there are so many terrorist attacks taking place that all cities are insecure. There are many different proposals on how to solve this situation: while some suggest that children should not be sent abroad at all, but should travel just within Croatia instead, others believe that it would be best to move excursions permanently to destinations such as Prague, which is considered a safe city, for now at least.

Immediately after the recent terrorist attacks in Spain, Education Minister Blaženka Divjak recommended to school boards to postpone all travel to the country. School boards include parents of children who are going to travel and who should decide whether to let them go or not. At the time, the Ministry announced that their information shows that about 1,500 students plan to travel to Spain, but yesterday they confirmed that the actual figure is about 3,000, and perhaps more. They point out that they issued just a recommendation and not an order because they do not have the authority to do so.

“We are thinking about what can be done and how we can help resolve this situation, but we fear we cannot do much. This concerns contracting parties, which are travel agencies and parents, and we have nothing to do with this,” says the Education Ministry.

Boris Žgomba, president of the Association of Travel Agencies at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, says that the majority of the travel arrangements have already been paid to agencies in Spain, which would cause legal problems in the case of cancellation. He added that the government should get involved in the issue.

Spain, along with the Czech Republic and Greece, is the most favourite destination for senior students of Croatian high school and thousands go every year to the Costa Brava area, near Barcelona. It is traditional for Croatian high school students to go for an international trip ahead or during their senior year.

Translated from Jutarnji List.