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Tempted to holiday in the UK?

Holidaymakers huddle against the elements

By Mario Cacciottolo and Carla Pickering
BBC News

Rain, rain go away - and foot-and-mouth isn't exactly welcome either, among those whose livelihoods depend on tourists turning up.

The wettest July on record in England (and unusually damp across the rest of the UK to boot). Flooding across several counties. And then foot-and-mouth. None of which provides much incentive to visit Britain's holiday hotspots.

A man walking on a rainy beach
Like to be beside the seaside?
Mindful that the public may consider fleeing overseas for their summer and weekend breaks, the government has announced a 1m cash boost to support rural tourism in England, half of which will fund a marketing campaign for the English regions and rural businesses such as attractions, bed-and-breakfasts and caravan parks.

Elliott Frisby, of VisitBritain, says that day trips in particular have suffered this year.

"When the weather's bad, people are more likely to stay at home and do DIY or watch television. But there are things to do in this country, whatever the weather."

He does, however, admit to hoping for an Indian summer.

"If we have beautiful weather in September, then those trips not taken in the first three-quarters of the year could be made up by the end of the year."

The Alton Towers theme park in Staffordshire is among the attractions to have seen visitors numbers fall as the rain came down.

A ride at Alton Towers
Queues are shorter when the weather is bad
"Numbers were definitely down in June and July, but not as bad as they could have been because we had a lot of pre-booked tickets," says spokeswoman Liz Greenwood.

But some visitors are happy when it rains.

"The ride enthusiasts tend to come when the weather's bad, because they know it won't be busy and they'll have the rides to themselves."

Robin Barker, the deputy chief executive of South West Tourism, believes that the amount spent by tourists will show a dip in his region. Not only was 2006 a "bumper year", but this year visitor numbers seem to be down.

"When the weather is bad the all-weather places do well - the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, for example, is reporting a fantastic time."

Own worst enemy

But it is not only the weather that can put people off domestic holidays.

You can't get good accommodation in England unless you spend 150 a night
Disgruntled holidaymaker Jenny Titmuss
Jenny Titmuss, 64, from Harlow in Essex, has just returned from Cornwall with her family, and says she is "disappointed" by the lack of service and general provision for tourists.

"One of the flagship adventure parks closed at 5pm - in the third week of July. We went to a restaurant and it closed its doors at 8pm, and brought us the bill at 9pm.

"I've experienced this before. You can't get good accommodation in England unless you spend 150 a night, and the accommodation and service is not as good as America or Europe."

Chris Gabbott runs The Coppice, a nine-bedroom bed-and-breakfast in the Lake District that was severely affected by 2001's foot-and-mouth epidemic. His turnover has taken another - smaller - knock this year as a result of the heavy rain.

Another factor that has hit the Lake District is a change in the UK airports used by American tourists.

"A couple of years ago, they would hire a car at the airport and tour England, stopping off in the Lakes. Now they drive down from Edinburgh, through the Lake District, and stay overnight in places such as Stratford - so the hotels in this area lose out," says Mr Gabbott, who is president of the Lakes Hospitality Association.

Takings down

Tony Cullimore, 55, owns an animal adventure park for children in Gloucestershire called Cattle Country.

An aerial view of a heavily-flooded Tewkesbury
Tewkesbury was one of the worst affected areas for flooding
In recent weeks, the park's income has dropped by a third - and some days takings are down by 90%.

Although it is in the south of the county, well clear of the areas worst hit by July's floods, many visitors expected the park to be under water.

Others have stayed away because of the rain, and some assume the park will be closed as a result of the recent foot-and-mouth outbreak.

"Our animals were slaughtered in 2001, but we have not been affected this year. We had a letter from Defra saying we should carry on as normal.

"But one person did ring up asking if we had foot-and-mouth."

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