UK resorts boast best season in years

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The Independent Online
The fine weather is helping Britain enjoy one of its best tourist seasons for at least five years with millions of people taking short breaks in addition to their main holidays abroad.

The value of domestic tourism and travel is expected to increase by about 5 per cent this year to be worth over pounds 12bn.

Resorts, attractions and hotels are having an exceptional season. Stephen Mills, assistant director of development at the English Tourist Board said: "There can be little doubt this is the best summer Britain has had for many years.

"The continuing fine weather has encouraged many more people to visit resorts in Britain, including people who have not taken a holiday in this country since they were children."

The package holiday industry denied that the unusually fine weather had hit travel agents.

A spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said last year's record of 14 million holidays sold overall included 10 million summer vacations, and the industry is expecting a similar number for this summer with 9 million already booked.

Abta, which represents more than 7,000 travel agents and 600 tour operators, said the economy was as much of an influence as the weather.

"What is different this year is that people have left it to the last minute, so the buyer will get a cheap holiday but the operator is selling off his product at a low price."

The unusually warm winter, spring and summer weather has also ensured a massive increase in the flea and wasp populations. Vets in Britain and Ireland are warning that the flea population was on the verge of exploding.

"There's been a mild winter and they've been living nicely in our carpets," said Karen Bessant, spokeswoman for the British Small Animals Veterinary Association.

"Normally they would have been wiped out over the winter so they were given a nice head start for the summer," she said.

Anywhere used by domestic animals is probably infested with fleas. Once a de-flead animal steps outside it is likely to be pounced upon by hungry fleas.

Wasps are also mounting a summer offensive. Ian Burgess, deputy director of the Medical Entomology Centre at Cambridge University, said wasps had survived well during the early part of the year and were short of food.

He advised people not to wear floral scents which could attract the hungry insects.

"Always wash the hands after handling sweet foods and wash children's faces," he added.

When eating outside it was important always to check for wasps before putting food into the mouth. Nearly all wasp-related deaths were caused by stings to the back of the mouth, said Mr Burgess, with about six deaths a year caused by an allergy to their stings.

The explosion in the insect population has also spurred on a Glasgow- based holiday company to issue midge repellent to customers travelling to the Western Isles.

Douglas Hart, marketing director of Scotsell, said: "We don't want our clients to suffer annoyance, or in some cases pain, when they come under attack. So it's a good investment if people on car tours of the Hebrides can feel safe in the early evening particularly at places close to trees."

Some prospective clients now ask if it is a bad year for midges before they book for a tour of the Western Isles.

"Many think it's a nice touch to supply them with a pack of wipes or a bottle of lotion," added Mr Hart. "It seems to work a treat."

Loathed by tourists and gardeners, the midge is so greedy that Jane Trigg, an entomologist from London's School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, recently logged 180 bites in just 10 minutes.

Ms Trigg used her own arm as part of a repellent test programme. She said: "They are vicious devils for such tiny insects."

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