Full tourism recovery in UK will take four years:


It will take the UK tourism industry another four years to recover fully from the effects of September 11, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) claims in a new report.

ABTA says the growth in the number of overseas visitors to the UK will not return to previous levels until the world economy recovers, and confidence in the safety of air travel is restored, a BBC report said.

While confidence in the safety of air transport is expected to recover as early as next year, the relative cost of travelling will remain high due to the economic downturn. This will keep tourist numbers down until 2005.

"The hits the industry has taken this year will be enough to affect the whole 2001-2005 period," said Kevin McCauley of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, who wrote the report.

The number of tourists visiting the UK between 2000 and 2005 is now expected to grow by just 18.3 per cent, down from the 25.9 per cent originally forecast.

Travel from the UK is forecast to grow by 14.7 per cent over the same period rather than the 22.2 per cent previously hoped for.

The slump in traveller numbers will be more acute in the short term. Visits to the UK are expected to fall by 10 per cent this year alone, and by 3 per cent in 2002.

Tourist numbers slumped in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, with the number of high-spending US visitors falling by 45 per cent compared to August. And London hotel bookings fell by 17 per cent.

The British Tourist Authority has previously said the shortfall in visitor numbers could cost the industry as much as £2.5 billion in lost revenues next year.

The September 11 terrorist attacks closely followed the outbreak of this year's foot-and-mouth disease, which kept tourist numbers down throughout the peak summer season.