LONDON -- It's a double whammy.
Great Britain's tourism industry expects to lose between $15
billion and $20 billion this year thanks to the combination of
hoof-and-mouth disease, which scared people off the destination
last spring, and the downturn in the U.S. economy.
Americans represent the largest overseas tourism market for the
U.K., according to the British Tourist Authority, and the dearth of
Yanks heading to Britain is taking a toll on hotels, restaurants,
theaters and attractions.
A BTA spokesman in London said Britain's $96 billion tourism
industry is facing its worst crisis since the Persian Gulf war 10
Even though hoof-and-mouth cases have dropped dramatically from
their peak last April, "those lingering images [of dead animals]
are sticking in people's minds," he said, and have greatly
contributed to a 60% decline in high season hotel bookings.
A spokeswoman for the London Tourist Board said the city could
lose $1.5 billion in tourism revenue this year -- the result of an
estimated 14% decline in visitors.
"Hoof-and-mouth was never an issue in London, but we are feeling
the effects of many fewer tourists in general."
Advance bookings at London hotels, she said, are down between
20% and 30%.
"The situation is dramatically affecting the theater industry in
London, especially group bookings, and the restaurant business.
"The American economy is definitely playing a role and so is the
strength of the British pound against the weak euro," she said,
noting that half of London's 28 million annual tourists are from
Suppliers and hotel companies are "wary of discounting," she
said, because the practice can have long-term disadvantages.
Rather, tourism companies and some hotels offering other kinds
of incentives, such as value-added packages.
"Our biggest challenge," said the London Tourist Board
spokeswoman, "is restoring confidence in Britain as a