Foot and mouth endangers United Kingdom’s tourist industry

Earnings from British tourism in the areas worst hit by foot-and-mouth disease have collapsed by up to 80 percent, prompting a desperate government attempt to save the industry from disaster, The Independent reported Friday. Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, told ministers that tourism revenue across the country was running at 10 per cent below last year's level and the outlook for the summer was bleak. But the impact is being felt far beyond those areas directly affected by the disease. English regional tourist boards told The Independent they are already losing $285 million a week because of the crisis and warned that the figure could rocket over the spring and summer. Tourism chiefs estimate that the final bill for lost foreign and domestic bookings could soar past $7 billion by September if the situation does not improve. The Southern Tourist Board is reporting a "severe impact" in the Cotswolds, the Chilterns, New Forest, Isle of Wight and Dorset, most of which are far from foot-and-mouth sites. Many hotels and guest houses say bookings have slumped by half as American and European tourists cancel reservations. The severity of the problem has prompted a government campaign to salvage the tourist season as fears grow that the collapse in business for hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions could cost billions. On a trip to the Yorkshire Dales Friday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair will launch a $8.5 tourism promotion drive and give a series of interviews to foreign broadcasters. According to UPI, the British government will also offer another $170 million of low-interest loans to small businesses facing closure because of the crisis in tourism, which threatens to dwarf the financial problems faced by farming.

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