An emergency package of aid for the beleaguered British tourist industry is being prepared by the Government.
The number of foreign visitors is expected to slump by 20 per cent after this month's terrorist strikes in America and the foot-and-mouth epidemic.
Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, announced emergency talks with tourism leaders yesterday. She told GMTV: "The clear message is there is a major problem facing the tourism industry and we want to ensure that where the Government can help, the Government does help.
"I recognise very clearly the crisis that's facing tourism and particularly the crisis that's facing international tourism. Our visitor figures are significantly down – that's visitors from America to Britain. Domestic tourism is to some extent another matter.
"The real problem is the fall-off in ... all visitors in general coming from all parts of the world to our large cities like London." She said that a "recovery package" would be announced within the next two to three weeks.
Tourism chiefs had already been bracing themselves for a drop of at least 10 per cent in visitor numbers, at a cost to the country of £1.5bn, because of foot-and-mouth. The American terrorist atrocities came just as they were hoping they had put a grim year behind them.
Hotels, restaurants and travel companies reported an immediate collapse in bookings after the attacks on 11 September. America is Britain's biggest tourism market, with about four million visitors arriving from the US each year and contributing more than £2.5bn to the economy.
Richard Tobias, chief executive of the British Incoming Tour Operators Association, said: "It's very serious as it comes on top of foot-and-mouth ... If there were any signs of recovery, those signs have been wiped out completely."Reuse content