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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
US visitors snub poet anniversary
Dylan Thomas Boat House
The Dylan Thomas Boat House in Laugharne

Fears of terrorist reprisals after the Iraq war could be putting Americans off travelling to south west Wales for this year's Dylan Thomas celebrations.

Swansea and Carmarthenshire will be the focus of festivities to mark the 50th anniversary of the poet's death.

It was hoped many Americans would cross the Atlantic to take part but there is evidence to suggest they are staying at home.

The recently refurbished Dylan Thomas Boathouse in Laugharne, where the poet lived for the last four years of his life, has enjoyed a surge in visitors since reopening last month.

Americans are nervous about travelling in the immediate period but the strong relationship between Britain and the US helps
British Tourist Authority spokesman

In the last three weeks more than 2,000 people have followed in the footsteps of famous faces such James Bond star Pierce Brosnan and former US president Jimmy Carter by visiting the landmark.

However, although a handful have been from overseas, there has been a noticeable lack of Americans.

Thomas was particular popular in the US, and it was on a lecture tour in New York that he died in November 1953.

Usually there are parties from the US booked in for tours of his Welsh haunts throughout the year but at present there are no reservations.

Overseas tourists

Boathouse curator Lorraine Scourfield said she was delighted by the public response to the 50,000 refurbishment.

"The numbers are higher than normal and everyone who has been here has said how pleased they are with the works," she said.

"We are expecting it to get even busier over the coming months."

But she added that few of these visitors were expected to travel from the US.

Dylan Thomas
The US has had a particular affection for Dylan Thomas

A coach party of Canadians turned-up at Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre on the weekend and the names of overseas tourists still feature prominently in the visitor's book.

But a spokesman said with the current international situation, coupled with the outbreak of the killer virus Sars, it was accepted it would be difficult to attract Americans.

"We will not have a clear picture until later in the year because mid-June through to September is when we see most of our visitors," he said.

Flight bookings to the UK from the United States were down by 80% year-on-year for February - the traditional peak booking time for American and Japanese tourists.

'Nervous'

They have risen slightly since and the British Tourist Authority is hopeful trade will pick-up over the coming months.

A spokesman said: "Americans are nervous about travelling in the immediate period but the strong relationship between Britain and the US helps.

"They look to travel to Britain more than any other European country.

"They consider Britain as their first choice destination and this is helped by a recognition of the support Britain gives to the United States, particularly in the aftermath of 11 September."




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