TOURISM: Strong pound deterring European visitors

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The Independent Online
Currency differences are stemming the flow of European tourists to Britain, it was revealed yesterday.

The strong pound meant the number of Western European visitors to the UK in the first two months of 1997 fell 5 per cent compared with January- February 1996.

The dip, after many months of increases, meant the total number of overseas visitors fell slightly from just over 3 million in January-February 1996 to 2.99 million, according to the Office for National Statistics. "The pound's strength has had some effect. Short-break business has clearly been affected by fluctuations in exchange rates," said a British Tourist Authority spokeswoman. However, the number of North American visitors - traditionally the biggest spenders - rose 11 per cent in the first two months of the year to around 480,000. This helped bring total overseas visitor spending to about pounds 1.39bn, roughly the same as in 1996.