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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Travel firms hit by farm disease
Bar chart of number of firms hit by foot-and-mouth crisis
Two transport giants have confirmed that the foot-and-mouth impact is hitting the number of visitors to the UK.

Eurotunnel, which runs the England-to-France channel tunnel rail link, said the outbreak had worsened an already "difficult environment" which has seen passenger numbers drop 10% so far this year.

"Certainly on the passenger side, Britain's got a big perception problem it has to work on," a company spokesman said.

And BAA, the UK's biggest airport operator, blamed the "immediate impact" of the outbreak, and the cancellation of sports fixtures, for stagnant trade in the first three weeks of March.

The warnings come on the eve of Easter holiday period, one of the most important events in the UK tourism calendar.

Heathrow suffers

Only one of BAA's seven UK airports, Aberdeen, reported above-average growth in passenger numbers last month.

Aeroplane taking off from Heathrow
Heathrow: passenger numbers down last month
"Traffic at Aberdeen is very much tied to the oil industry, so will reflect the buoyancy in the sector," a company spokeswoman said.

Heathrow, the UK's biggest airport, saw traveller numbers decline 2.3%, one of its worst performances for years.

"Throughout the last year there has always been traffic growth until now," a company spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

But she said it was too early to be able to assess how the outbreak would affect business in the longer term.

Leather firm hit

Other firms which on Thursday reported trade had been affected by the outbreak included gas transporter International Energy, which blamed the disease for restricting access to building sites.

The company is experiencing a significant increase in costs as a result of the reduced availability of UK hides

Official statement, Pittards
Golf course operator PGA European Tour Courses said the epidemic "continues to present a potential threat to UK operations".

On Wednesday leatherwear company Pittards warned the outbreak would lead to a "substantial reduction" in profits.

"The company is experiencing a significant increase in costs as a result of the reduced availability of UK hides and sheepskins and of importing raw materials from non-UK sources," the firm said.

Growing impact

More than 40 listed companies have now mentioned foot-and-mouth in statements to UK investors since the latest outbreak was first reported in 20 February.

The impact of the disease on business, as measured in the number of company announcements, returned this week to its highest rates so far.

While the firms include agriculturally focused enterprises such as Genus, the world's largest cattle breeding business, firms in sectors such as leisure, publishing and construction have also said that earnings might be hit.

IT firm Alphameric last week warned that it might be affected as bookmakers, hit by the loss of horseracing meetings to the outbreak, cut investment in new systems.

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See also:

05 Apr 01 | Business
Cafe firm stirred by foot-and-mouth
20 Mar 01 | Business
UK economy to ride out farm crisis
06 Mar 01 | Business
Foot-and-mouth 'to hit land prices'
01 Mar 01 | Business
Rising cost of farm crisis
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