Travel: Tourists fight back

THERE has been controversy in Orlando, Florida, this week over the revelation that the city is spending a million dollars on riot control equipment (tear gas, grenade launchers, groin protectors . . .) to help the police deal with the threat to law and order posed by World Cup crowds. For a state that has attracted more than its fair share of publicity in the past 12 months because of the number of violent attacks on tourists, there is some irony in Florida's anxiety that the visitors could now be striking back.

In fairness, compared with the rest of Florida (particularly Miami), Orlando is a law-abiding place. Crime against tourists amounts to a negligible percentage of all crimes reported to the city's law enforcement agencies. The truth is that British holidaymakers run far more risk of injury in road accidents from making left turns across oncoming traffic (wait for the green arrow]) than they do from criminals. By far the most common crime is the theft of valuables left in unattended cars.

Yet if travel industry research is to be believed, British holidaymakers are deciding not to visit Orlando this summer because they consider the city to be too dangerous.

While the Orlando tourist industry is worried at the decline in business from the UK, it faces the more pressing problem of increased competition from rival destinations in America: Las Vegas is making a pitch for the family market; riverboat gambling on the Mississippi is proving more popular than anyone guessed; and the country and western delights of Branson, Missouri, are also diverting business away from Florida.

That means Orlando has to offer better attractions and better deals. Disney and Universal Studios are investing heavily in their theme parks; hotels are offering rooms for as little as dollars 20 ( pounds 14) a night.

Orlando is the bargain buy of the year - the only danger to your safety is likely to be from genial Irish football supporters. My tip is: bring your own groin protector.

(Photograph and map omitted)

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