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Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Seaside boom as tourists shun countryside
Family enjoying the seaside
Seaside resorts and DIY stores enjoyed a busy Easter
Seaside resorts, theme parks and DIY stores enjoyed a bumper Easter break as tourists steered clear of the worst foot-and-mouth areas of the countryside.

The English Tourism Council (ETC) said coastal towns such as Blackpool, Bournemouth and Torquay reported an increase in visitors on last year at the expense of traditional Easter favourites such as the Lake District, Dartmoor and the Cotswolds.

It seems the image of burning funeral pyres has had an affect on people

ETC spokesman

Coastal paths and surrounding areas did well compared with many rural areas, where visitor numbers were "well down", according to the ETC.

A spokesman said: "The bigger attractions have done well and people seem to have gone to the seaside areas.

"The rural areas where there was foot-and-mouth have done less well. It seems the image of burning funeral pyres has had an affect on people."
Alton Towers
Alton Towers was as busy as Easter last year

Disease-free East Anglian coastal resorts were packed throughout the weekend with the main road to Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, coming to a standstill on Saturday.

On the south coast, a Bournemouth tourism spokeswoman said during the weekend it had been difficult to find accommodation if people had not booked.

Theme parks and countryside museums also reported a busy Easter period and DIY chain B&Q reported "record takings".

But Sandie Dawe, of the British Tourist Authority, warned that a busy Easter for the seaside businesses was not enough to turn the tourist industry around.

"There have already been a number of people laid off and we know that hotels are not staffing up for the summer season."

Easter visitor figures
National Motor Museum up 20%
Alton Towers same as Easter 2000
Newquay up 15%
New Forest down 20-80%
Dartmoor 50-100% down
B&Q "record" takings

Martin Booth, head of support services at Alton Towers, said visitor numbers at the Staffordshire theme park were in line with expectations despite the "doom and gloom" which had enveloped rural areas.

The National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire, had a 20% increase in visitors from last year over the Easter holiday, making it the highest attendance for five years.

The car park at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire had to be closed for a short time on Monday because they were so busy.

Countryside slump

The picture in other areas of the countryside was bleaker, however, with a fall in visitors to Henley-on-Thames, Ludlow in Shropshire, Sedburgh and Ullswater in Cumbria, and Shakespeare Trust properties in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Takings for businesses in the New Forest, which was only been able to open nine car parks to the public due to foot-and-mouth, were also down.
New Forest
Many tourists steered clear of usually popular rural areas

In Yorkshire, drivers turned their cars around as they approached the military-style check-point on the approach to the Dales village of Malham.

Despite placing signs up insisting that the village was open for business, the closure of all paths and the famous Malham Cove took its toll on business.

Three Lake District B&Bs contacted by the BBC said they were full during Easter but had few or no bookings for the summer.

Overseas delegation

This week, delegates form the US, Canada and Japan are about to begin a whistle-stop tour of UK attractions, in a bid to quash international fears about visiting foot-and-mouth areas.

The two groups will meet in London on Friday to visit 10 Downing Street and Windsor Castle.

British Tourist Authority chairman David Quarmby said he hoped the summit would counteract misconceptions about the disease and safeguard the 13bn in-bound tourism industry.

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See also:

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