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British Tourism Industry Hit Hard

Britain expects a 20 percent decline in spending by foreign tourists this year in the aftermath of terrorism fears and hoof-and-mouth disease. The British Tourist Authority says Britain expects to lose nearly $4 billion in tourism revenue from foreign visitors this year.

The chairman of the authority, David Quarmby, blames the decline on the combined effects of Britain's hoof-and-mouth crisis and fears of travel following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

British Tourism Minister Kim Howells says many tourists are afraid to get on an airplane now after the suicide hijackings in America.

"None of us know what the next few weeks will bring," he said. "Above all, our ability to enjoy travel and tourism depends on people's feelings about international travel and security. Confronting terrorism and ensuring security is paramount. The government's determined to do this."

The tourist authority estimates the drop in foreign tourism, if it does not worsen, will cost Britain around 75,000 jobs.

Richard Tobias, who heads a tourism trade association, says the rest of this year looks grim.

"It is a difficult situation," he said. "We are facing many difficulties over the next few months, not least of which are the employment issues. It has to be recognized that some businesses will suffer. Some will fail. Some will lose their jobs. And it looks like a pretty bleak Christmas."

The officials say London's world-renowned theater industry faces what Mr. Howells calls "an almost unprecedented situation" as American tourists cancel their reservations.

Mr. Tobias says he hopes tourism will rebound next year, when Britain hosts the Commonwealth Games and celebrates the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth's reign.

Still, officials say it took nearly four years for Britain to regain its share of American tourists after the 1991 Gulf War, and no one can predict what will happen this time.