Britain is facing worst tourist crisis in decade


Britain is facing its worst tourist crisis since the Gulf War with lingering images of foot-and-mouth funeral pyres discouraging visitors to this "green and pleasant land," tourist officials said.

In peak season, hotels paint a gloomy picture and London theatres are battling to fill hit shows.

"This is the worst crisis since the Gulf War in 1991," said Elliott Frisby of the British Tourist Authority.

"The Americans stayed away in droves then and it took four years to pick up."

He painted an equally gloomy picture after the foot-and-mouth epidemic that gripped Britain.

Cases are down to about two a day from the peak of more than 40 in April - but would-be-visitors still recall "Armageddon images" transmitted around the world of cattle and sheep burning on giant funeral pyres.

"Britain's image has taken a sound beating with foot-and-mouth, the strength of the pound, pictures of train crashes, all the floods this winter. This will be affecting us for the next three to four years," said Frisby.

He warned that numbers could tumble by up to 20 per cent.

Tourism is a 64 billion pound ($88 billion) industry that contributes seven per cent of the GDP. Last year Britain had 25.2 million visitors who spent 12.8 billion pounds.