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The BBC's George Eykyn
"The Easter holiday period is make-or-break"
 real 56k

The BBC's Jane O'Brien
"The countryside is open for business"
 real 56k

Glenda Forbert, Mountain Ash hotel, Lake Windemere
"People up here are very angry"
 real 28k

Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Crunch weekend for tourism
Devon County Coastal officer Nic Butler opens the footpath at Orcombe Point in Exmouth
Most coastal paths will be open over Easter weekend
Tourists are being urged to visit the UK's countryside this weekend in a bid to help businesses hard hit by foot-and-mouth, as the Easter getaway begins.

But record numbers of people are heading abroad for their holidays.

Government ministers hope to lead by example by taking their Easter break in the UK.

Forecasts for UK economic growth have been revised downwards because of the impact of the disease.
Crisis in the UK
Cases on Thursday: 4
Total confirmed cases: 1,240
478,000 animals awaiting slaughter
888,000 animals have been slaughtered

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has cut its growth forecast from 2.5% to 2% for 2001, and predicted that the jobless total will rise by an extra 50,000.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has been in Devon to promote the message that the countryside remains "open for business," as four new cases of the disease were confirmed in that county on Thursday.

A suspected case in Northern Ireland has proved negative, however.

The Easter exodus began in earnest on Thursday with 1.75 million people expected to spend their weekend abroad.

John Prescott at Tring, Hertfordshire
Canal towpaths have been reopened
A total of 50,000 passengers were expected to go through Stansted Airport on Thursday alone.

But the drive to encourage people to choose the UK has continued with 1,000 miles of canal towpaths are being re-opened.

Tony Blair visited Torquay on Thursday after giving a speech to a teachers' conference.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott spent the morning at the Grand Union Canal, near Tring, Hertfordshire.

And Environment Minister Michael Meacher was in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire.

Vicar John Roden of Appleton Roebuck and Acaster, Selby, disenfects his feet prior to an Easter church visit
The disease has hit all aspects of rural life

But Scottish tourism minister Alasdair Morrison opted for Italy for his Easter break - only days after promoting Scotland as a tourist destination.

The BBC's political correspondent Shaun Ley said: "Ministers are acutely conscious that this weekend represents the first big test of whether the message that rural Britain is open for business is really getting through".

The countryside tourist industry has been hit hard by the crisis, with hotel and guesthouses experiencing a fall in bookings and many businesses, such as pubs and gift shops, also suffering.

Tourist attractions reopened
National Trust - 300 out of 400 properties open
Historic Houses Association - 140 out of 206 properties open
English Heritage - Half of its houses open
Tourist Board - Most theme parks and zoos reopened

Cumbria has lost an estimated 750m since the start of the outbreak - 150m lost by farming.

But a host of attractions are starting to reopen - among them Stonehenge in Wiltshire which draws thousands of visitors every year.

On Wednesday, the government's chief scientific adviser was cautiously optimistic that the spread of foot-and-mouth was beginning to flatten out.

Professor David King said it was possible that a downward trend in the epidemic was emerging although new cases are still being confirmed.

One of four cases in Devon in the village of Membury, near Axminster, was close to the Dorset border which has been unaffected by the disease so far.

But farmers in Northern Ireland are relieved after Stormont agriculture minister Brid Rodgers announced blood tests on a dairy herd in Cookstown, County Tyrone, had found no sign of the disease.

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12 Apr 01 | UK
Holidaymakers' great escape
12 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
NI foot-and-mouth tests negative
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