From stately homes to public houses, businesses count the cost

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Judy Williams, manager of the National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall. The sanctuary has seen revenue fall 30 per cent because of the outbreak.

Judy Williams, manager of the National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall. The sanctuary has seen revenue fall 30 per cent because of the outbreak.

"We are doing everything to let people know we are open for business. It's just a case of getting that message across that things are open.

"It will be a make-or-break time for us and the rural economy. Because if they don't come to us, they don't come to the village shop or the pub.

"We rely on visitors to carry out our work with seals. The visitors' income helps to pay for the rescue and huge cost of the rehabilitation of the seals. Many businesses will fail unless something is done."

The Duke of Devonshire, 81, runs Chatsworth estate in Derbyshire with his wife, Deborah. Most of the park's 101 acres of grounds are normally open to the public, attracting 500,000 people a year, but it has been closed for almost two months.

"We have been able to open the house, but the park is closed. It's having a considerable effect on revenue, and we hope to be able to open soon.

"Who knows how long it will last? I'm pessimistic, and think it will be well into the summer. There will be fewer people coming and the first thing we would have to do would be to dismiss all the part-time workers. We don't want to lose any unless we have to."

Mike Thomas took over Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, from the town council seven years ago. He has 30 full-time staff and 20 part-timers in high season. There are 1,000 animals, including endangered species. He lost £15,000 in three weeks.

"We were closed for three weeks but reopened on 16 March. That cost us £40,000, with no income, when normally we'd expect at least £15,000 at that time of year.

"We opened again fromnecessity, but people have not been coming. We are 80 per cent down with takings.

"It's a disaster. If this carries on through Easter, we'll be kaput. This whole thing has been atrociously handled by the Government."

Andy Hyslop, 42, a retailer for 18 years at the Rock + Run outdoors shop, Ambleside, Cumbria, believes he is "about £40,000 down" in sales since the outbreak began compared with a normal year.

"Usually we would expect to see 100 people a day coming through the door. It's much, much less now ­ probably 20 or so. Some of the places around here ... are down virtually 100 per cent. If you go out to Langdale [a few miles away] it's completely dead.

"The Government's treatment of tourism seems confused ... Even though we're directly suffering I'm not convinced that encouraging people to come to the Lakes will be good for the long-term eradication of the disease."

Stuart Nicol, 38, set up Farr Cottage Lodge and Activity Centre in Corpach near Fort William three years ago and expected to break into profit this year. Instead, he has lost £16,000 in cancelled bookings.

"We would expect to have about 600 beds confirmed by now but we have just 16 for the first two weeks of April. We hope that will be 150 by the end of the month but I've contacted the bank to ask if they will be sympathetic if the cash flow does dry up.

"Even if the disease is brought under control by July, it will be too late to make a difference. I would expect by that stage people will have booked elsewhere. It is looking pretty bad but we are just doing our best to keep afloat."

Alan Ames, the 45-year-old owner of the Eagle Heights birds of prey sanctuary, near Dartford in Kent, has lost £40,000. Visitor numbers have fallen from 3,000 in March 2000 to 300 in the past four weeks.

"The M25 passes only a mile from the centre. People somehow feel they are doing a service by staying away. It is frustrating because there is no risk of transmitting the virus by visiting the sanctuary.

"We have 100 birds of prey, some of them very rare. It has taken me years to build up. We employ six people full-time. I have already had to let one part-time person go.

"This centre is my life and if things don't change then I'm going to be in terrible trouble."

Becky Johnson, who runs Hallow Mill Equestrian Centre near Worcester, has seen a slump in business and the cancellation of riding events wipe 15 per cent off her income.

"We have effectively put ourselves in quarantine. There would be nothing to stop us moving the animals, but we are keeping them in the centre.

"Most of our pupils are urban and suburban children so most of our business is intact. But we are feeling the impact.

"So many satellite industries have been hard hit ­ farriers because no one is getting their horses shod and feed merchants because no one is buying high-performance animal food because all competitions are cancelled."

Tony Leete, 48, innkeeper at the Ancient Unicorn Inn, Bowes, near Barnard Castle, Co Durham, is losing £700 a week because of the crisis.

"I came out of the Royal Air Force five years ago and bought this place ­ a 16th-century coaching inn.

"Last year business was absolutely spot on and we had lots of walkers coming in. But now there is nothing. It is just dead.

"When the Government said that people should not come out, the public responded brilliantly. Everyone stayed indoors. But we are lacking leadership now. It is completely rudderless.People must realise they can still come but they just have to stick to the roads. We are watching the business just drip away from us."

Alison Lea-Wilson, 43-year-old co-founder of the Anglesey Sea Zoo at Brynsiencyn in south- west Anglesey, has lost £20,000. Takingsare down 83 per cent in a month. On Thursday, three visitors arrived. Last March there were 2,000.

"I'm usually recruiting nine seasonal staff and investing £50,000 in stock for my gift shop at this stage but I can't afford to.

"Three years ago we insured against infectious diseases after an e-coli outbreak on a neighbouring farm affected our visitor numbers. Now our insurers say that cover is against only human diseases, not those affecting animals.

"We need money for legal help to challenge that."

The Marquess of Bath, 68, inherited the 10,000-acre Longleat estate in 1992. The safari park has been closed for almost two months, so far losing £50,000 ­ a figure that could reach £500,000 a month at the height of the season.

 

"It is a serious situation which is totally ghastly, which I hope never to see again in my lifetime.

"The disease is not too far away, only 20 miles. We are currently having a review to decide whether we can open at Easter, and if so, to what extent.

"One can't extend that lack of revenue for too long. One can't say too much about what the future may hold but it all leaves us pondering on all of this. I think the Government has been as active as it could be."

Jennifer Cox is publicity and promotions manager with Lonely Planet, the world's biggest independent guidebook company. The Lonely Planet guide to Britain sells 43,000 copies a year but the new edition could be jeopardised by the outbreak.

"All our guides are ready to go. The big question is whether people will want to come to Britain and whether they will buy our books. We can't not release them.

"It's not enough for Tony Blair to urge the population to take their Easter holidays in Britain. The Government needs to suggest things that people can do, whether it's going for walks on beaches or visiting the Eden project."

James Cobbold, 23, is themarketing manager for the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, Cumbria. It needs about 75 per cent audience capacity to survive.

"We're not being hit as hard as some but it's harder to convince people to commit to coming because of the uncertain nature of the crisis. Locals aren't willing to travel so much ­ people worry about being responsible.

"We're beginning to notice the visitor audience isn't coming up. We're doing 'early bird' offers, working very closely with the local community, especially hoteliers to set up discount package deals. We're trying to adapt to the situation, but this isn't something we can market our way out of."

Emma Plaster, 24, is general manager of the 13th-century Bridge House Hotel at Beaminster, Dorset. The hotel has suffered a big downturn in trade.

"It's crazy. People are asking whether they can get to the hotel because of foot and mouth. They think the South-west has been closed down. Bookings for March were down 40 per cent. We have had to cut hours for the 15 staff and we may have to talk about redundancies even though as yet there have been no cases of foot-and-mouth in Dorset.

"What is daft is that most things are open. All the local gardens, historic homes and attractions are open. The beach is open. The only place you can't walk is on the farmland."

Mark Townsend, 41, runs Contours Walking Holidays. After a £500,000 turnover last year, he was set for a 130 per cent increase in trade in 2001 until foot-and-mouth struck. His bookings are now 25 per cent of last year's level.

"I believe they didn't give a damn at first. If foot-and-mouth had broken out in Islington it would have been quite serious. It would have been even worse if it had broken out in Tuscany.

"We had a terrific year last year and were all set for expansion. Now we have cancelled all our tours for April ... We will survive but only because I have built up reserves. It doesn't look like anything will be done by the Government to help businesses such as ours."

John, 55, and Rachel Gillard, 53, own a traditional English Tea Room on Crediton High Street, Devon. Over the past month they have seen their takings plummet by 50 per cent.

"The last year has been pretty depressing as far as business goes. We were also hit by the fuel crisis. Foot-and-mouth has hit us quite hard. We are in the middle of a farming community. Even without the tourists, people from the surrounding villages usually come into town.

"We usually get 40 or 50 customers a day but recently it has been down to a dozen or so.

"On top of that the wholesalers have raised their prices ­ bacon, for example, has doubled. But we are not in a position to double our prices."

Patrick McGrath is the chairman of the Champagne Agents Association. He is concerned that the cancellation of big champagne-oriented events will put a dent in the nation's annual consumption of 20 million bottles of bubbly.

"It's too early to give any figures or the impact on sales. But hotel business will be hit very hard.

"Tourists are not coming to the UK, some of the major events [such as the Cheltenham Festival and the Badminton Horse Trials] are being cancelled and it is obvious that hotels and restaurants are losing business.

"Perhaps they [the Government] could have moved faster, but they did their best. It is hard to criticise."

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