Holidaymakers head abroad despite ministerial appeals

Tourism
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The Independent Online

Record numbers of holidaymakers will leave Britain for the Easter break, despite government appeals for people to support rural tourism in Britain.



Record numbers of holidaymakers will leave Britain for the Easter break, despite government appeals for people to support rural tourism in Britain.

About 1.75 million people will travel abroad this Easter, the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said yesterday. Specialist travel firms offering walking and other outdoor breaks abroad have reported sharp increases in bookings, even though ministers continue to insist that Britain is open for business.

With forecasters predicting cool and showery weather, travel agents confirmed there has also been an increase in bookings for popular Mediterranean destinations.

The Canary Islands, mainland Spain, Majorca and Ibiza are the most popular short-haul destinations for package holidays, with Cyprus and Tunisia selling well.

Long-haul travellers are mainly heading for Florida and the Caribbean, while city breaks to Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome and Prague are proving popular.

Yesterday Janet Anderson, the Tourism minister, visited attractions in Devon in an attempt to press home the message that the county was open to visitors despite the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Mrs Anderson said: "I hope my visit here will help to highlight that Britain is open for business.

"Even in Devon, one of the areas most affected by the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, there are attractions open and plenty of places for tourists to go. You can freely drive, cycle and walk along tarmac roads, including those across Dartmoor and visit country towns and villages," she said.

"All north Devon beaches are open and so are all but a few in the south and east of the county."

Mrs Anderson infuriated Downing Street last week by appealing for ministers to stay in Britain over Easter, although she declined to suggest politicians spend their summer holidays at home. Downing Street refused to disclose the last time the Blair family, well known for their love of Mediterranean breaks, spent an extended holiday in Britain.

The Liberal Democrats urged the Government yesterday to grant an extra bank holiday in September this year to encourage trade as a response to the foot-and-mouth crisis.

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