Tourism pays for return of terror

IRA bombings: Hotels hit by cancellations as Americans stay clear of danger
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The resumption of IRA violence has hit hotel bookings in London, casting a shadow over the British Tourist Authority's disclosure yesterday that a record number of overseas visitors came to Britain last year.

A total of 23.6 million tourists - 12 per cent more than the previous high of 21 million set in 1994 - came to Britain in 1995 and spent a record pounds 11.7bn, up 18 per cent on 1994. These figures were boosted by a big rise in visitors from North American - up by 10 per cent to a record 3.9 million.

The collapse of the ceasefire, however, throws doubt on whether these trends are set to continue. Many London hotels suffered cancellations during the recent spate of bombings and some say they have yet to recover business.

Bookings at the Britannia International, close to last month's IRA bomb in Docklands, are down. General manager Eric Lucht said: "We had a 20- 25 per cent cancellation rate at the time of the bombings, particularly from the American market. Now we have a 30 per cent reduction in bookings."

Gillian McLorlan, reservations supervisor for the Grosvenor House Hotel, said: "At the time we had cancellations and didn't pick up ad hoc bookings as we usually would. We are not as busy as we would expect for April."

The Forte Crest Hotel, in Regents Park, central London, had 10 cancellations after the first bomb. "Funnily enough it mostly seems to be the Americans and Britons," a spokeswoman said.

The London Tourist Board admitted that if the bombing campaign was kept up it would damage the market. "We know that tourism was up during the ceasefire," said LTB press officer Louise Wood.

"We've recently had three incidents. If that happened again it certainly wouldn't be good for tourism but it's difficult to put a price on it and assess what it might do."