NEW YORK -- Armed with $4 million in promotional funds to revive
the U.K.'s image in the wake of the hoof-and-mouth outbreak,
British tourism officials embarked on a 48-hour media blitz in New
"We want Americans to know that Britain is open for visitors
[and] we need to clear up misconceptions about hoof-and-mouth,"
minister of tourism Janet Anderson told reporters at a briefing
Anderson, who was scheduled for interviews with 12 major media
outlets, said her message was simple: "Humans cannot get it, our
food is safe to eat and the only places you cannot visit in the
countryside are farms," she said.
The goal is to head off revenue losses from tourism, which,
Anderson confirmed, are costing travel-related industries up to
$200 million a week.
Jeff Hamblin, chief executive of the British Tourist Authority
in London, said he was conferring with local tourist offices in
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and would shortly
announce details of the marketing campaign.
Meanwhile, on March 20, 120 of the country's 180 National Trust
historic sites re-opened to visitors, and Anderson said she
expected many private mansions and castles to follow suit. Forty
new cases were confirmed in Britain on March 21 and the first
confirmed case of hoof-and-mouth was reported in the Republic of
Ireland March 22.
Anderson said that "contrary to the many news reports here in
the U.S., the countryside is not closed. You can still go almost
anywhere; you just have to stay on the paved roads."
The minister also addressed the televised images of animals
being brought to slaughter in order to prevent the spread of the
highly contagious disease, which is not usually fatal to animals
but reduces their economic value.
"One percent of Britain's livestock has been destroyed to
prevent the spread," Anderson said, "But we get the feeling that
Americans think the [countryside] has been turned into a funeral
Hamblin said that 30% of the consumer calls coming into the
British Tourist Authority office in New York "concern questions
"As far as we can tell, we're not getting a lot of
cancellations, but there is a delay in booking. If this continues,
of course, it's going to be a problem."
Cities will not gain from the problems in rural areas, said
Hamblin, "because people are concerned about coming to Britain,
period, not just one part. But when the recovery begins, I think
cities will be the first to benefit."
He said he was speaking with heads of trade organizations such
as ASTA and the U.S. Tour Operators Association to make sure their
members had the necessary information to provide their clients.
A daily update on which attractions are open to visitors is
found on the British Tourist Authority Web site at www.travelbritain.org.
As for when the crisis will end, Anderson said once new cases
stop appearing, farmland and any area that is within three miles of
livestock will be safe for visitors after 30 days.
The last outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease in Britain occurred
in 1967 and lasted seven months.
In 2000, 4 million U.S. travelers visited Great Britain, which
is the top international leisure destination for Americans.