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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Tourists shun Shakespeare's birthplace
Royal Shakespeare Company theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
American visitors spend 25m a year in Stratford
Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the areas that has been hit hard by overseas tourists staying away from the UK in the aftermath of the US terror attacks.

American visitors are vital to the region as they spend 25m there in an average year, according to its tourist authority.

It was predicted on Wednesday by the British Tourist Authority that the combined effect of foot-and-mouth and the US terror attacks will cost the UK tourism industry 2.5bn in lost overseas business this year alone.

Americans are our number one overseas market to Stratford

Anne Taylor, South Warwickshire Tourism marketing manager

And in Stratford-upon-Avon, the attacks on America have undoubtedly had an adverse impact on overseas tourism in the short term, said Anne Taylor, South Warwickshire Tourism marketing manager.

"Four out of five of our visitors come from the UK but overseas visitors spend much more money," she said.

Accommodation bookings were cancelled, particularly after the Ryder Cup was postponed until next year.

And she said marketing campaigns had been put on hold until a more appropriate time.

"Americans are our number one overseas market to Stratford. They like the heritage."

They are important to Stratford as they are prepared to come at off-peak times as well as high season.
William Shakespeare

But she is confident American visitors will return in their droves to see Shakespeare's birthplace.

"Our heritage is enduring.

"Shakespeare was a 16th century poet and playwright and here we are in the 21st century and people are still coming back," she said.

The region has already been hit this year by the effects of the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Although it was disease-free some tourist attractions such as Shakespeare's birthplace were closed initially, as a precautionary measure.

But Ms Taylor said despite this many attractions had reported a reasonable year so far.

Campaigns postponed

However she said they were following the BTA's lead in postponing marketing campaigns.

"We need to be very careful. We have to wait for when the mood is right.

"When people begin to feel more comfortable travelling, then we will set the wheels in motion for campaigns.

"But consumer confidence has really dipped overseas," she said.

Hotels and bed and breakfasts in the city have witnessed this decline in confidence.

Rates cut

Alveston Manor Hotel has cut rates by almost half to attract customers.

Deputy reception manager Helen James said a large group from Europe, due to arrive two days after the terror attacks, had cancelled.

While conference bookings are unaffected, she said other business had undoubtedly suffered.

Gill Carr, owner of Penryn Guest House, said the Ryder Cup's postponement in north Warwickshire, had led to cancellations.

"We have to just hang in there and get on with it and hope that if people aren't flying then that will mean English people aren't flying abroad and will come out and visit UK destinations," she said.

Already her overseas business has been affected this year by people's reluctance to travel because of fears over foot-and-mouth.

"March was absolutely disastrous. Business was down by 75%," she said.

But she said business did pick up, and hopes it will do so again.

"A lot depends on what happens in Afghanistan," she said. "We don't know what will happen at the moment."

The BBC's Hugh Pym
"The disaster of 11 September could not have happened at a worst time for the tourism industry"

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See also:

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