Tourism industry hit by attacks in America


Britain's 64 billion a year tourist industry is bracing itself for a dramatic drop in business following the terrorist attacks in America.

Government minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting, Kim Howells, has warned that it would take a long time for the industry to recover from the 'catastrophic blow.'

'It's almost impossible to predict what the full implications will be,' he said. 'But it looks very, very gloomy in terms of inbound visitors.'

Dr Howells was speaking at the annual conference of the English Historic Towns Forum, held in Cambridge.

He warned delegates that tourism would suffer as a result of the terrorist atrocities - but the industry would fight back.

'We have got to try and build confidence and convince, especially the Americans, that it is safe to travel.

'It's going to be very difficult, and in the meantime we have to look very hard at the way in which we can encourage people from Europe to travel here to make up the numbers.

'Americans will come back - they have a great affection for this country, and we have to defeat this pernicious terrorism and its effects.

'This is a wonderful country to visit. We hope they will continue to come in droves, but we have to make sure it's sustainable.

'The tourism industry is certainly not in its death throes. It has grown at a phenomenal rate - 20 per cent of all new jobs created in the 1990s were in tourism and it is our biggest invisible earner - but this has been a terrible year, especially for rural tourism centres.

'We thought we were just getting clear after foot and mouth and hoping for a late summer rescue when this happened.

Dr Howells said the terror attacks in New York and Washington wouldn't affect the way people in the UK travel around the country for holidays, but had put many Americans off the idea of flying abroad.

'We have to encourage them to travel again, we can only do it by example. We have great experience in this country with the rail industry and we can see the way in which people gradually regain confidence in a mode of travel,' he said.

The theme of the conference was sustainability in tourism and Dr Howells, MP for the Welsh constituency of Pontypridd since 1989, assured delegates of the importance government places upon the industry.

'It should not be seen as a Cinderella industry,' he said. 'We have much to be proud of in our towns and cities, they are famous the world over and we have a priceless architectural heritage.

'This is the fifth most travelled to country in the world, and tourism is our biggest invisible earner. It is a huge industry and we want tourism to be recognised for the positive contribution it makes; the wealth it generates, the entrepreneurship it promotes and the jobs it creates.

'But the industry needs to think long term, there is no room for complacency.

'The great shock we have suffered over the past week, will cast a very deep and long shadow. It makes predictions almost impossible, but one day that shadow will disappear, and the steps we take now will be in evidence then.

'We will try in the meantime to come to terms with the implications in the UK.'