NEW YORK -- Coverage of Great Britian's fading hoof-and-mouth
disease no longer ranks front page placement in newspapers across
the U.S., but the livestock illness continues to plague some U.K.
An example is Yorkshire, in northwest England, where new
outbreaks of the livestock virus have been confirmed during the
past two weeks.
"Our total visitors are still down by between 50% and 60%," a
spokeswoman for the Yorkshire Tourist Board said, adding that "20
small businesses already have closed up shop -- they were mostly
small [family owned and operated] accommodation providers."
The spokeswoman said that Yorkshire-area businesses count on
nearly $900,000 in visitor spending during the summer high season,
but this year's tourism revenue is unlikely to reach that
The spokeswoman said that, except for farm-related sites, all of
Yorkshire's attractions are open and operating.
"People can still visit our museums, our stately homes, our
market towns and villages, and our churches and abbeys," she
The picturesque Yorkshire landscape is perhaps most famous for
its connection to literature, such as Emily Bronte's "Wuthering
Heights," written in 1847 and set against the backdrop of the
famous Yorkshire moors.
"Most people, especially the British, come here to hike in the
700-square-mile Yorkshire Dales National Park. And all of the
footpaths and bridle paths in the park are closed," she said.
Hoof-and-mouth disease, which can make cloven-hoofed animals
sick and diminish their economic value, prompted a massive
government containment effort when the outbreak was uncovered in
Part of the effort temporarily left portions of rural Britain
off limits to people, who can spread the virus on their clothes,
shoes and car tires.
The late-winter restrictions spooked potential visitors, many
from the U.S., who have opted to book summer vacations elsewhere.
During the height of the outbreak, tourism revenue losses for the
U.K. overall reached $200 million per week.
"It's not only Americans who are not coming... it's the British,
too. About 80% of Yorkshire's total visitors come from within the
U.K., namely London and southeast England," the spokeswoman
She added that while the Yorkshire Tourist Board has stepped up
advertising and public relations campaigns, it remains to be seen
whether the region will receive anywhere near the high season's
traditional 3.5 million visits.
"We don't count visitors, just visits, and, of course, some
British people come to Yorkshire three and four times each summer,"
the spokeswoman said.
The local tourism businesses, she added, will be "totally
devastated" if the downturn continues through summer.
Yorkshire is not alone; the English Tourism Council reported
that as many as 250,000 tourism jobs still are at risk in the U.K.,
and the industry stands to lose $7 billion this year.
There has been some good news in recent days. The British
Tourist Authority received an additional $20 million from the
British government for global promotions and the Scottish
Parliament has earmarked $350,000 in additional funding to the
Scottish Tourist Board.
(The Wales Tourist Board is petitioning the Welsh Assembly for
an additional $1 million for its 2002 budget, although one senior
official at the board said that $1 million in extra funding is
"strictly a wish list item.")
Promotional allocations, however, won't help local businesses
meet their immediate expenses.
For its part, the British government in mid-April created the
National Tourism Recovery Strategy, which allocated about $34
million to small businesses affected by the downturn. Initiatives
included low-interest loans and debt restructuring assistance. Some
sources say that won't be enough.
In Yorkshire, hotels, inns, B&Bs, ground suppliers and
others are finding the situation to be a real challenge.
"Challenge, actually, is putting it very, very mildly," the
tourism board spokeswoman said.
For more information, visit
Yorkshire on the Web.