Tourism bosses look to Britons to lead revival

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The Independent Online

The British tourism industry is ready to bounce back from the impact of foot-and-mouth disease and 11 September, according to a survey.

The British tourism industry is ready to bounce back from the impact of foot-and-mouth disease and 11 September, according to a survey.

The revival will be led by domestic trade and a healthy UK economy rather than visitors from overseas, according to findings released yesterday by the English Tourism Council.

After last year, in which tourist attractions, hoteliers, travel agents and other businesses lost an estimated £5bn, the ETC predicts a 2 per cent growth in expenditure by Britons to £20.6bn.

Fuelled by low inflation and mortgages, it is forecast that the number of day trips, weekend breaks and fully-fledged holidays in Britain will return to the levels of 2000. The survey of business confidence found the number of trips is expected to increase by 6 per cent to 140 million and the number of overnight stays will increase by 5 per cent to 440 million.

Tourism bosses feel confident that the long-term trend of taking holidays abroad will be slowed by the effects of 11 September – there has been a rise in some air fares, longer check-in times and heightened fears about visiting America and the Middle East.

However, some businesses are less optimistic about enticing back overseas visitors, who stayed away in droves last year – there was a 21 per cent drop in visitors, costing the industry an estimated £2.2bn. The British Tourist Authority, which promotes Britain as a holiday destination abroad, launched a £5m campaign last month aimed at markets in the United States, Canada and five European countries.

Under the banner "UK-OK", it will run for three months and promote the image of Britain's countryside, sports, heritage and cities. The level of inquiries and bookings over the coming weeks are crucial to businesses reliant on overseas trade. A spokeswoman for the BTA said: "January to April is a key booking time as most visitors come in July to September."

Richard Tobias, chief executive of the British Incoming Tour Operators Association, said: "Western Europe is still a resilient market but there is still a long way to go with international markets, including North America."

The National Trust said it lost an estimated £7m in visitor income last year because of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. It was equally cautious about an upsurge of visitors. Sian Evans, of the National Trust, said: "The Americans and Japanese tend to be a bit panicky at these times – look at the Gulf War, which was the worst year for tourism for a decade."

There have also been efforts to market the nation's royal heritage during the Queen's golden jubilee year.

English Heritage hopes to attract visitors back with a programme of events on the theme of Royal Heritage. A series of royal exhibitions are being staged, featuring the courts of monarchs from Edward I to Queen Victoria.

The Scottish Tourist Board said it received 83 per cent of its visitors from Britain, insulating it from a continued downturn in overseas visitors to Britain. But its spokesman, John MacNeil, said: "There is mass competition. We are all competing for the same tourists."

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