Seaside and city enjoy silver lining on the outbreak's dark cloud

Tourism
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The Independent Online

Seaside tourist attractions and many retail centres are enjoying a boom in business at the expense of rural areas where tourism has been devastated by the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Seaside tourist attractions and many retail centres are enjoying a boom in business at the expense of rural areas where tourism has been devastated by the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

With the fells of Cumbria eerily empty, it seems that thwarted walkers have been taking to the beaches instead.

Two-thirds of Easter break holidays to the countryside have been cancelled, according to a survey carried out by NFU Countryside, an affiliate of the National Farmers' Union that represents general rural interests.

At the same time, however, several northern seaside towns such as Blackpool have reported increased spending from unseasonally high visitor numbers.

Visitors to Blackpool Tower are up 14 per cent compared to last year, according to Leisure Parcs, the tower's owner. Marc Etches, the company's managing director, said: "It seems that the countryside's loss is the seaside's gain."

The trend suggests that the figure of £5bn that has been put forward as the likely cost of the outbreak to the British economy may be a significant overestimate.

Retail outlets have also reaped benefits from the epidemic, such as Bluewater in Kent, Meadowhall near Sheffield and the Trafford Centre in Greater Manchester, where a spokeswoman said the last few weekends had been as busy as the run-up to Christmas.

In the south, the sun was shining on weekenders staying in Brighton yesterday and the Grand Hotel on the town's seafront was full. The hotel's assistant manager, James Bradford, said: "It's great down here. Today everyone staying in the hotel has checked out to enjoy the sun, and the beach is pretty full.

"Trade is very good, and although we were full last night we have no conferences or corporate functions at the moment, so the guests are all families and holidaymakers, some of whom might normally go elsewhere."

The theme park Alton Towers has also had higher than expected visitor numbers, while the impact on London has been described as "minimal" by the London Tourist Board.

Many resorts, however, are still losing millions every week, prompting the Government to launch a £6mš campaign to promote tourism.

The campaign will try to enlist the help of celebrities such as the Spice Girls and Denise Lewis.

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