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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 20:12 GMT 21:12 UK
Another blow to beleaguered Cumbria
Dock Museum
Dock Museum is still attracting visitors

The shipbuilding town of Barrow in Furness is not as well known as Windermere or Kendal as a Lake District holiday destination.

But it is still a popular stop-over with a museum charting its dockland history, the dramatic ruins of Furness Abbey and one of the north of England's biggest animal parks just down the road.

The outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease in the town has sparked concerns that tourists will not only give Barrow a wide berth, but also the county, which is still recovering from the impact of foot-and-mouth disease.

'No risk'

Chief executive of the Cumbria Tourist Board, Chris Collier, said people hear the word Cumbria and think the whole area has been affected.

"The media coverage is putting people off coming to Cumbria when there is not any risk to a visitor," she said.

"It is doing damage to tourism unnecessarily."

Furness Abbey
Tourist numbers are not down at Furness Abbey

She said the infection, which is not contagious, was caused in a very small, discreet area of Barrow, a town she says is not generally visited by the hordes of visitors to Cumbria.

Mrs Collier said tourism was important to the region every year, but particularly in 2002 after the catalogue of disasters that have affected the industry - bad weather, floods, rail strikes, foot-and-mouth and 11 September.

"Now this as well. We really do not need it," she said.

"People are not at risk if they continue to go to these places."

Staff at the English Heritage-run Furness Abbey, one of the largest Cistercian abbeys in England, said visitor numbers had not been affected over the weekend since the outbreak.


First we had foot and mouth and that did a lot of harm to us, so this is all we need

Thomas Ryan
Butcher
In fact two visitors from Leicester, John and Sally Fancourt, said they had hoped the news would mean less crowds.

"We had planned to come and see the abbey before we heard anything about it and decided to come anyway," said Sally.

But six-miles down the road, the South Lakes Wild Animal Park at Dalton in Furness, which boasts lions, giraffes and rhinos in open enclosures, has seen business drop.

Owner David Gill said the news "devastated" the park on Saturday and it felt as if the road had been closed as they lost up to 2,000 visitors as a result of the news.

'Back to normal'

"We had half the numbers we would usually expect," he said.

"Sunday was 40% down and Monday 25% down. Now we are back to normal and flat out.

"The public is difficult to please.

"You can tell them all the scientific facts you like, but they will make up their own minds."

Butcher Thomas Ryan, 58, from Barrow said he fears it will affect the town.

"First we had foot and mouth and that did a lot of harm to us, so this is all we need," he said.

"It is going to be pretty bad for tourists now, this is not just going to go away, people will remember."

Barrow in Furness Borough Council has been at the centre of investigations into the Legionnaires' outbreak as it runs the Forum 28 arts centre where it is believed a ventilation duct contained the disease.

Its tourist information centre, originally next to the arts centre, has had to be relocated but its Dock Museum continues to attract visitors and families using the outdoor play area.

Council spokesman Jeff Bright said whether or not tourism had been affected was not a major concern for the council at present.


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02 Aug 02 | Health
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