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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Fears for UK tourism industry
Tourists at Buckingham Palace
American tourists may stay away from Britain this year
Tourism bosses fear that there will be a 20% drop in visitors to Britain this year following the US terror attacks and the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Up to 5m people may stay away from Britain this year, Richard Tobias, chief executive of the British Incoming Tour Operators Association, has warned.

Our intention is to launch a range of marketing and promotional activities to attract visitors to Britain as soon as the time and mood is right to do so

British Tourist Authority

Tourism leaders are due to meet ministers on Wednesday to discuss an action plan to help the industry recover.

The British Tourist Authority (BTA) says it recognises that there will be a need to promote the UK to offset the impact the US attacks will have on tourism.

Mr Tobias told BBC News Online: "We need to have some serious funds for the promotion of Britain overseas through the British Tourism Authority.

"We have to be ready to promote Britain again when the time is right," he said.

Recovery 'wiped out'

Before the attacks, the country's tourist industry had already suffered a huge blow from the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Mr Tobias said any signs of recovery following the crisis had now been wiped out.

Blackpool tower
An action plan is being considered to help British tourism
By August, visitor numbers to the UK were down by nearly 16% because of foot-and-mouth disease, he said.

And now the industry was set to lose many more of the 4m US visitors who come to Britain each year.

"American tourists are our biggest market but the downturn is not just confined to the Americas.

"All over the world there is a reluctance to travel, not just because of concern about safety but also uncertainty about the economic impact of the attacks.

"For many it just doesn't feel right to be jetting off around the world on holiday," he said.

'Severe impact'

Mr Tobias is optimistic that the industry will recover, but said the government needed to commit itself to promoting Britain when the timing was right.

"We need that commitment, not after the crisis but now," he said.

A BTA spokesman said that it would be able to give an estimate of the effects on British tourism of the terror attacks in America by Wednesday.

But already it fears that the repercussions will be "severe", given that during the Gulf War in 1991 there was a 22% drop in North American visitors, and a 5% drop in total visitors to Britain.

"Our intention is to launch a range of marketing and promotional activities to attract visitors to Britain as soon as the time and mood is right to do so," he said.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Hugh Pym
"The disaster of 11 September could not have happened at a worst time for the tourism industry"
See also:

18 Sep 01 | Business
What now for tourism?
28 Jun 01 | Business
UK tourism industry in crisis
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