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"April saw the biggest drop in tourist numbers since records began"
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Dewi Davies, North Wales Tourism
"The constant challenge is to draw people out of the main cities"
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Friday, 6 July, 2001, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Tourism figures offer hope
Lake District
Foot-and-mouth has hit tourism across the UK
The UK's hard-hit tourism industry is showing signs of recovery as the foot-and-mouth crisis starts to recede, new figures suggest.

The number of overseas visitors rose in May although they were still down on the same time last year, according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

But it still represents a big improvement on April - the worst month for tourism since records began - when the epidemic was at its height.

The figures for May were based on an International Passenger Survey of tourist arrivals in the UK.

Income from tourism in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis has fallen by an estimated 10% nationally, and by as much as 80% in the worst-affected areas such as Cumbria and Devon.

The phones are beginning to ring again

Ivan Broussine
Scottish Tourism Forum

The number of holidaymakers visiting the UK was still nine per cent lower than last year.

But there are signs that fears over foot-and-mouth disease are receding.

The number of Americans visiting the UK, for example, was hardly changed from last year, although many would have been heading for the urban attractions of London, Oxford and Bath.

People from western Europe, on the other hand, continued to stay away in large numbers.

While British holidaymakers were spending more money abroad, tourists in the UK spent a fifth less in May than this time last year.

'Stigma' remains

But the ONS says springtime visits to the UK were decreasing well before foot-and-mouth became a problem.

Ivan Broussine, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Forum, saw brighter days ahead.

He said: "We should not be over-pessimistic.

"It is affecting individual businesses, and some businesses really very hard, but the phones are beginning to ring again and there are an increasing number of visitor inquiries."

But some were less optimistic about the months ahead.

Tourist figures (Mar-May 2001 compared with previous three months)
Overseas visitors down 4% to 6.1m
UK residents abroad down 3% to 14.6m
Overseas earnings down 7% to 2.95bn
UK residents spending abroad up 4% to 6.49bn
Jean Phillips, who owns a B&B in Scotland, said: "It is going to be difficult. It is going to take some time. People have found other places perhaps.

"We still have this stigma attached. We have got a lot of PR work to do to get people back, particularly in the south of Scotland."

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who usually holidays with his family in Italy, hopes to boost domestic tourism this year by spending part of his break in the UK.

Tourism officials have invited the Blairs to go to Devon, one of the counties worst affected by the foot-and-mouth crisis.

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See also:

05 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Tourism 'devastated' by crisis
30 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Ministers appeal for tourists' return
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