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U.S tourists shun London hotels

Americans are shunning London's tourist sites  

LONDON, England -- London hotels have seen a drop of 45 percent in bookings from U.S. tourists in the wake of the September 11 attacks, a survey has found.

The Japanese were also shunning the capital with 39% fewer visiting compared to the same month last year, the hotel consultancy arm of accountancy and business company PKF revealed on Tuesday.

Wales is also suffering from the a drop in tourism blamed on the terror attacks and the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

The industry has been helped by regional and domestic bookings which have softened the blow by reducing the deficit to 17 percent overall on last year's figures.

A separate study by the English Tourism Council has calculated that 900,000 Britons have scrapped plans to travel abroad, with another 100,000 putting plans on hold.

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The number of Americans staying away though is a huge blow -- Britain was the top European destination for Americans in 2000. The British Tourist Authority estimates that the industry is set to lose 2.5 billion this year across the UK.

The number of Americans and Japanese refusing to visit are in line with early fears about reluctance to fly after the plane hijack attacks on New York and the Pentagon and concerns for similar strikes in the UK.

The news is a double blow for English tourism -- still suffering from the impact of the foot-and-mouth outbreak this year -- and a general economic downturn.

The Welsh Tourist Board says the decrease in transatlantic travel since September 11 is expected to cause an estimated 100 million ($142 million) drop in revenue on top of a 182 million ($258 million) drop in spending blamed on foot-and-mouth.

Melvin Gold, managing director of Hotel Consultancy Services at PKF, said: "While London hotels have suffered over the last few months from the combination of the U.S. downturn and the foot-and-mouth outbreak, the events of 11 September have caused an additional drop of around 10% in occupancy levels."

September and October are traditionally the strongest months for bookings in the 1.8 billion-a-year London tourism industry, but it is forecast to lose about 1.5 billion.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has set up the Tourism Action Group, an umbrella organisation of businesses from the tourism industry and related sectors, in an attempt to attract people back to the city.

It had its first meeting last week and is to report to Livingstone within two weeks on ways to attract tourists back. The report's findings will be passed to the government.

Livingstone said: "Right now people are nervous about coming to London to enjoy themselves. That's why our tourism industry is having such a tough time.

"But while I have asked everyone to be vigilant, I don't want them to lock themselves in at night."


• British Tourist Authority

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