Travel Weekly editor in chief Nadine Godwin continues her tour
through the U.K. as part of a delegation of travel industry
leaders. After visiting England's Lake District, the group will
meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London. Her third
WINDERMERE, England -- When Jeff Hamblin, chief executive of the
British Tourist Authority, welcomed 24 travel professionals on a
whirlwind VIP tour of the U.K. April 17, he said there was nothing
on the trip through Scotland and England that could not be included
as part of any tourist's or business group's visit.
The BTA guests, he said, would go nowhere that others could not
access and enjoy -- despite some limitations that stem from the
outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease in the U.K.
Hamblin's point had special resonance here, in Cumbria, which
was the featured destination on Day 3 of the VIP circuit, and where
tourism has plummeted by 80%.
It is this county, which encompasses the Lake District, where
40% of all the U.K.'s hoof-and-mouth cases have occurred.
Nevertheless, BTA's guests on April 19 visited a private manor
home and walked its gardens, rode into several small towns, cruised
across Lake Windermere, visited the World of Beatrix Potter
attraction and visited Wordsworth's home for a poetry reading.
The only evidence of the disease were the disinfectant pads that
the bus crossed on entering the grounds of Levens Hall and the pads
that visitors walked across on entering the yard for access to the
property's world-renowned 17th century topiary gardens.
The disinfectant liquid was visible as some people walked across
the pads but left no traces on shoes.
The disinfectant pads found at driveways were installed by the
county council and are maintained with additional disinfectant
daily, according to Peter Nattrass, director of the Mountain Goat
tour firm. Pads found on the grounds of a property are installed
and maintained by the attraction itself, he said.
In addition, Nattrass said, his company sprays the wheels and
sides of its buses at least once every day to keep from spreading
the virus when moving about the countryside. And, he said, those
buses can travel on any public road.
Although Cumbria is one of the two hardest-hit areas in the U.K.
(the second is Devon), rules about what a visitor can do are the
same here as throughout the country: Visitors cannot go into
mountain areas, farmland, most footpaths or other places associated
with animals, such as zoos, Nattrass said. More than 100 footpaths,
however, have just reopened in Cumbria.
In addition, as the VIP travel group gathered with hosts for
dinner April 19, they learned that the U.K.'s top scientist had
declared the hoof-and-mouth disease to be "under control."
Chris Collier, chief executive of the Cumbria Tourist Board,
said the county's 80% drop in tourism reflects a comparison with
bookings at this time last year.
The effects vary by type of business. For example, one
attraction operator from the coastal area reported increased visits
and Windermere Lake Cruises reported increased activity over a
two-week Easter period. However, Nattrass said his Mountain Goat
ground operation was behind by 50%.
The worst impact has been among accommodations operators; some
have had no income at all for seven weeks, Collier said.
To put losses into perspective, she said tourism accounts for
25% of Cumbria's gross domestic product, making it the No. 1
industry. In addition, 80% of the farmers are also involved in
tourism, either by operating B&Bs, renting cottages or creating
attractions on their properties.
She said Cumbria county needs "millions of pounds" to relaunch
the area's tourism business, but with so many weeks without income,
she said, local businesses are in no position to pay for it.
She said her organization has prepared a comprehensive marketing
plan and has asked the government for $17 million to fund it. That
is equivalent to one week's losses in March and less than one
week's losses to the county in April, Collier said.
Cumbria is seeking more than the $14 million in additional funds
the BTA is seeking, but Collier added, Cumbria is a "special case."
Devon, the other "special case," is seeking its own aid, as well,
The Cumbria tourism executive said she was sure the county would
get some funding from the national government though she was not so
certain it would get all it seeks.
U.K. on site: Scotland is delegation's first
U.K. on site: Day two, delegates meet the