NEW YORK -- The scary sounding hoof-and-mouth disease has left an
estimated 40 million rural acres -- or three-quarters of Great
Britain -- off limits to travelers, threatening to spoil the
shoulder and high seasons for U.S. suppliers to the U.K. and, to a
lesser degree, Ireland.
Suppliers who potentially will be hardest hit are those
specializing in walking and hiking tours.
Lawrence, Kan.-based Maupintour canceled the May 12 and June 9
departures of its Walking England's Cotswolds MaupinAdventures
trip, a spokeswoman said.
At Backroads, in Berkeley, Calif., company officials said they
will cancel programs "rather than run anything less than a great
"If the travel restrictions [remain in place much longer] we
will cancel, and offer to rebook clients on other programs in other
countries," a spokeswoman said.
The firm's programs begin in early June, and the decision to
cancel would have to be made at least 45 days out from departure,
The highly contagious disease, which began to appear in late
February, poses a major economic threat to the farming industry and
prompts the slaughter of infected animals.While the disease is
normally not contagious to humans and has no effect on the tourist
industry in cities, reports already have put rural tourism losses
at about $180 million per week.
Travel restrictions aimed at containing the disease extend to
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as to the Republic of
Ireland, although no cases of the disease have been confirmed
According to the British Tourist Authority, selected properties
managed by English Heritage and the National Trust are closed, as
are national parks and zoos, and scores of nature trails and
Sydney Lima, product manager, Europe, for Collette Vacations in
Pawtucket, R.I., said her firm as been "getting calls constantly"
about hoof and mouth.
"We're going to enforce our cancellation policy," she said,
"because humans can't get [the disease]."
That's the tack Hoboken, N.J.-based ACP Marketing/ BritRail is
A spokeswoman said the company has had inquiries about its
cancellation policy and some cancellations as a direct result of
But since it poses no threat to humans and there has been no
disruption to rail service or restrictions on rail travel, BritRail
is charging the standard 15% cancellation fee on rail passes.
Some escorted operators, like Globus and Cosmos, in Littleton,
Colo., are altering their coach itineraries.
"We have put together some viable alternatives for a quality
travel experience," said Philip Gordon, chief operating
For example, he said, in Ireland a tour of Galway and a visit to
the Hunt Museum in Limerick will replace a stop at the Irish
National Stud farm.
In England, motorcoaches will continue to stop at Stonehenge for
picture taking, but clients won't be able to walk around the
"Travel agents are calling with clients who are not happy and do
not want to go, and the majority of those [people] have been
rebooked at later dates," he said.
"[Or] we will rebook them on alternative programs in other areas
of Europe, at no fee." Gordon said he's hoping that the whole
situation will be stabilized by early summer.
CIE Tours International, an Ireland specialist, also is
rerouting trips when necessary.
Brian Stack, president of the Cedar Knolls, N.J.-based company,
said, "Our kind of tourists are the most environmentally,
agriculturally friendly tourists you're going to get. They're on
luxury coaches; they're not there to pet sheep or anything."
The hoof-and-mouth outbreak has the potential to affect golf
vacations, as well. According to the British Tourist Authority,
Golf Unions of England, Scotland and Wales has instructed each golf
club to assess its own situation, but courses that are near
farmland or animals are being advised to close.
David Brice, president of Golf International, in New York, said,
"We have no instances at this point of any golf courses being
closed in any of the major golfing regions of Ireland, England,
Scotland and Wales. "There is some concern from some clients,"
Three major golf courses in Ireland, Brice said, Mahonys Point
and Killeen, both in Kilarney, County Kerry, and Lahinch, adjacent
to farmland in County Claire, are temporarily closed.
"In Scotland, all the outbreaks have been limited to the
southernmost border counties of Galloway and Dumfries, which [are]
not primary golfing destinations," he said.
DER Travel Services said it temporarily suspended sales of the
Great British Heritage Pass, which is valid for entrance to some
"We don't want to sell the pass and then have people not be able
to use it,"a spokeswoman said.
Information on closures of sightseeing attractions can be found
on the following Web sites: www.english-heritage.org.uk; www.nationaltrust.org.uk; www.ramblers.org.uk, and www.visitbritain.com.
Questions pile up for agents
By Michele SanFilipo
NEW YORK -- Frontline agents are fielding lots of questions
about hoof-and-mouth disease.
"We're getting questions about the kinds of precautions clients
should take on their trips and whether they should avoid certain
foods," said Betty Hollingsworth, a leisure consultant and Scots
Master specialist at Uniworld Travel in Indianapolis.
She said her agency has not lost any bookings yet from clients
bound for the U.K.
Al Yougel, president of Atlanta Company Travel and a BritAgent
and ScotsMaster, said, "Everybody is concerned [about] the kinds of
activities they can take part in and the kinds of screenings
involved in going from one region to another."
One New Jersey agent, who is a former microbiologist, said she
has been carefully explaining the situation to clients.
The retailer, Katharine Lancy, president and owner of Swanton
British Travel Service in Phillipsburg, N.J., told Travel Weekly,
"I am not discouraging clients [from traveling to] the U.K. by any
means, but I have described why the countries are trying to keep
humans from wandering the countryside and spreading the disease to
animals that haven't been affected."
Lancy has decided to cancel her own escorted English countryside
tours for June, July and August because she "doesn't want to take
bus loads of people into the heart of the situation."
"If the countries decide to close all British Heritage and Trust
properties, the summer season is doomed."
Kate Kilcoyne, manager of Irish Travels in Omaha, Neb., said her
clients are cautionary but not ready to cancel their trips.
"I'm finding that people just want an understanding of what the
situation is and what measures they need to take."