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"It's likely to take 2-3 years to recover in places like north Devon"
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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Tourism 'still in crisis'
Many businesses in the countyside are still struggling
The English Tourism Council has said it is too early for the prime minister to say the battle against foot-and-mouth disease is being won.

While the number of cases may be falling, the ETC says many rural businesses are still in crisis and has urged the government to do more to rescue the struggling industry.

At a news conference in London on Thursday Tony Blair said foot-and-mouth disease was being brought "under control", but warned farmers not to drop their guard.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair: Disease is "under control"

But Ken Kelling, spokesman for the English Tourism Council (ETC), said: "The danger now is that if we assume that everything is alright many rural businesses which are still heavily down on bookings and finances will be forgotten.

"It is too early to say the problems are over because people are still not going back to the countryside and we expect that pattern to continue until the last infected area is given the all clear - and who knows when that may be."

Elliott Frisby, spokesman for the British Tourist Authority, which deals with incoming tourists from overseas, said the perception of Britain as an attractive holiday destination had been severely dented.

He said: "The image of Britain created by foot-and-mouth is not something we can immediately change.

"Tony Blair's announcement that the crisis is over focuses on the disease rather than the tourism industry because getting back to normal could take years."

The ETC - responsible for domestic tourism - says it needs 35.5m to rescue English tourism, but the government has allocated just 3.8m as a rescue package.

There are certain parts of the country...which are most definitely still in crisis

ETC's Ken Kelling
That figure compares to more than 14m having been allocated to the British Tourist Authority to market Britain abroad, despite the fact that 4 out of every 5 spent on tourism comes from the domestic market, said Mr Kelling.

He added: "Nobody is denying that international tourism is important but more money is needed to promote the English countryside to a domestic audience and change perceptions which can take a long time.

"There are certain parts of the country, for example the south-west which relies largely on British tourists, which are most definitely still in crisis.

"Many businesses in those areas will be disappointed that they have not been given that recognition."

The ETC has estimated that the cost of foot-and-mouth to the tourism industry in England will be 5bn this year, 2.5bn next year and 1bn in 2003.

Meanwhile the Meat and Livestock Commission is also struggling and has asked the government for 25m to promote British meat both at home and abroad.

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See also:

03 May 01 | UK
UK 'winning disease battle'
05 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Tourism 'devastated' by crisis
19 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Ad campaign to boost tourism
02 May 01 | UK
'No more pyres' for Devon
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