UK wins tourists' praise for quality

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'LONDON is not just expensive, it's very expensive. The hotels are expensive, the food is expensive and the shopping is expensive. The quality is good, but it's expensive,' said Sigfried Waibl, 65, ramming home his point after a week's holiday in Britain from Munich.

Mr Waibl was responding to survey results from the British Tourist Authority which showed that, without exception, facilities attracted higher scores for 'value for money' last year than in the previous 12 months.

The last time Mr Waibl and Herta, his wife, visited Britain was 20 years ago. 'When I came before it really was the place to shop. This time I was looking for a tweed jacket but they were pounds 300 or pounds 400. I can get the same English jacket in Germany for 300 marks ( pounds 120),' he said.

Paying pounds 137 a night in the Marriott hotel, Mr Waibl said hotels were more expensive than on the Continent but he was full of praise for London Transport. Its pounds 2.70 off-peak all day travelcard was unanimously thought to be good value.

'One thing I must say is that London is very clean. Even in Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly, where there are lots of young people, there is still a man sweeping up. Canterbury and Oxford were the same. It's better than Germany,' he said.

For Jill Stover, Marcheta Huerter and Chris Gibson, all teachers from Texas, the cost was not the point. 'There is just so much history. We haved loved every castle we have been to. Bath was magnificent but Anne Hathaway's Cottage in Stratford-upon- Avon was expensive,' Ms Stover, 40, said.

Covering 1,100 miles in a week in a hired car had allowed the group to take in many of England's tourist attractions. British Heritage cards, purchased in the US for pounds 29, allowed access to many.

Although they were spending pounds 60 a night in a London hotel, they had stayed in youth hostels elsewhere to keep down the cost. 'We would rather spend our money on things other than lodgings,' Mr Gibson said. Leaving today, they all wanted to come back.

The British Tourist Authority said the devaluation of sterling had increased Britain's attractiveness, with a record 19.3 million overseas visitors in 1993. This year's total could top 20 million.

According to the survey, London's public transport, shopping and restaurant meals were considered the best value for money, with hotel accommodation, both in London and outside, being seen as poor value for money.

Maya Chulani, 22, a student from near Bombay, India, had decided that inclusive tours were a cheaper bet than having to pay different entrance fees in each attraction. For her pounds 40, she had been to St Paul's, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, and she had had lunch on the river Thames. 'The packages are much better value,' she said.

(Photograph omitted)