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Micheal Meacher MP, UK Environment Minister
"We have never said: 'Do not go into the countryside'."
 real 56k

The BBC's Julia Peet
"The worst crisis here for a century"
 real 56k

Tim Yeo MP, Shadow Agriculture Minister
"They have been giving out very mixed messages"
 real 56k

Malcolm Bell, South West Tourism
"We need to get the message across"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 16:50 GMT
Countryside 'open for business'
A vet in a field near to the village of Unthank in Cumbria
The crisis has hit the tourism industry hard.
Rural businesses hit by the foot-and-mouth crisis are insisting the countryside is not a no-go area.

A massive advertising campaign will be launched by the government on Thursday encouraging people to return to the countryside despite the continuing crisis.

And an extra 10m to promote British tourism abroad has been announced.

Some of the attractions open in Cumbria
Eskdale and Ravensglass Railway
Theatre by the Lake, Keswick
Windermere Lake Cruises
The Wordsworth Museum, Rydal

Tourism bosses have estimated that losses to the industry are running at about 100m-a-week since the disease began to spread.

The message from the worst-hit areas is that although large areas of the countryside are out of bounds there are numerous other attractions still open for tourists.

In Cumbria, where they estimate a total of 8m to 10m is being lost per week in cancelled bookings, a fighting-fund has been set up to raise money for a 100,000 advertising campaign to entice tourists back.

John Tattersall, non-executive director of the Cumbria Tourist Board, said the situation in the Lake District was reaching crisis point and, if tourism did not pick up soon, 90% of the industry risked going bust.

He said: "The main point to get across is that Cumbria is open for business. The foot-and-mouth crisis is mainly in the north of the county and simply doesn't affect many areas.

"We would urge people to come up to the Lake District- there are some good deals to be had."

Some of the attractions open in the South-West
The Eden Project, St Austell, Cornwall
St Michael's Mount, Cornwall
Crealy Adventure Park, near Exeter, Devon
Anglers Paradise, near Oakhampton, Devon

In the south-west, another area severely affected by the foot-and-mouth crisis, tourism is losing an estimated 20m a week.

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of South West Tourism, said: "If you come down here you are sure to get a real West country welcome.

"There are numerous attractions open, not to mention all the towns, cities and villages."

Mr Bell said that, although tourists were being advised to stay off Dartmoor, there were dozens of hotels and B&B's, currently losing lots of income, which were ideal places to stay without the risk of spreading foot-and-mouth.

"Even the country lanes aren't out of bounds," he said, "as long as you stay on the tarmac, which in this weather is probably a better option than going down a muddy track anyway."

Tow-paths to re-open

Elsewhere, the National Trust and English Heritage were due to re-open 350 properties between now and 1 April.

British Waterways are to begin opening canals and local councils and national parks are discussing which public footpaths can now be re-opened.

A charter to support the tourism industry in Wales has also been launched.

Tourism in Wales is currently losing up to 25% of its revenue.

Welsh Assembly Deputy First Minister Michael German, who is responsible for tourism, unveiled the measures during the re-opening of five National Museums and Galleries of Wales sites.

He said: "The Tourism Charter is one of our most important measures in the drive to bring visitors back to the many attractions still available in Wales.

"It will also serve to promote responsible tourism among operators and visitors while we try to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease in some of our rural areas."

Marketing drive

In Northern Ireland, where tourism was said to be suffering "huge revenue drops", a major marketing drive was also being prepared.

It has appeared that Britain has been closed or you needed a decontamination suit to go into the countryside

David Quarmby, BTA chairman
And in Scotland, taxmen and other Government revenue officials are to be told to go easy on Scotland's businesses in rural areas struggling under the impact of the disease.

The 10m funding to the British Tourist Authority is aimed at halting international cancellations and lost bookings.

The grant, announced on Wednesday by BTA chairman David Quarmby, comes on top of the 35m already allocated annually to the organisation.

He said: "Overseas media see Britain with broad brush strokes and it has appeared that Britain has been closed or you needed a decontamination suit to go into the countryside."

The plan is being backed by the UK tourist boards.

Mary Lynch, of the English Tourism Council, said: "The public have responded magnificently to calls to stay away from the countryside.

"Our challenge now is to explain how they can still visit it."

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See also:

21 Mar 01 | Americas
US tourists shun Britain
20 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Rural package at a glance
20 Mar 01 | Business
UK economy to ride out farm crisis
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