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Britain Tries to Stem Tourism Losses Over Virus

March 18, 2001

The British tourism industry last week struggled to avert further losses as Stonehenge, Hadrian's Wall, many parks and other attractions in rural areas remained closed because of the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

The disease, which can devastate livestock herds, does not infect people, but because people can spread the virus on their clothing and shoes, travel has been restricted in farm areas.

While acknowledging that "parts of the British countryside are out of bounds," Tim Lovell, vice president of the British Tourist Authority in the U.S., said that "Britain is still very much open for business," especially in cities and villages.

The same day Lovell issued his statement, hoteliers and restaurateurs in rural areas met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London to complain they were losing millions of pounds each day because of the outbreak. Some in the industry estimated business was off by 75%.

Backroads of Berkeley, Calif., a major hiking and bicycling tour operator, said it hadn't received cancellations for its British trips, but the trips don't begin until June. A spokeswoman said the company is adopting a "wait-and-see policy" for now.

For updates on the situation in Britain, see a travel agent or visit the Internet sites http://www.travel britain.org (British Tourist Authority) and http://www.maff.gov.uk (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food).

Ireland, while having no reported cases of foot-and-mouth, also has closed many tourist sites to avoid the possibility of spreading the illness. And France last week recorded its first case; although the affected farm was blocked off, there were no effects on tourism at press time.

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