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First Base is the equivalent of an 'Editorial'. It is the opportunity for S & A to provide comment and provoke discussion on topical issues relating to leisure and tourism. This will be provided each month and we would welcome your feedback on the matters raised.

First Base 9: Foot and mouth The crisis for tourism

Date: 20/5/2004

Malcolm Bell of the West Country Tourist Board stated yesterday (9 March) that the foot and mouth crisis is not a farming issue - it is a rural issue and that a rural solution is needed. Throughout the UK rural tourism businesses, many of whom were already economically fragile, are now facing up to cancellations of bookings well into June. The vitally important Easter weekend and the two May bank holiday weekends are rapidly becoming non-events.

Malcolm Bell of the West Country Tourist Board stated yesterday (9 March) that the foot and mouth crisis is not a farming issue - it is a rural issue and that a rural solution is needed. Throughout the UK rural tourism businesses, many of whom were already economically fragile, are now facing up to cancellations of bookings well into June. The vitally important Easter weekend and the two May bank holiday weekends are rapidly becoming non-events.

For many these three weekends deliver up to 25% of their annual business and form the springboard for the success of the rest of the season. The loss of this business will result in pushing many of these micro and SMEs into bankruptcy.

In previous editions of 'First Base' we have highlighted the inevitable and impending closure of many small businesses involved in rural tourism over the next ten years. These predictions were predicated on the basis of an evolving shift in market forces. Under such circumstances and in the fullness of time the rural economy might have been able to re-organise and re-align itself.

The onset of this crisis and its deep felt ripples flowing throughout the rural scene has now precipitated a worse case scenario. Farmers hit by the crisis qualify for compensation. Others in the system don't.

Beyond this immediacy are, however, a number of other more strategic concerns:

1. We must not let the rural crisis in tourism spill over into the urban tourism base. Urban tourism in Britain must continue to be promoted heavily. We must maintain this core business as the platform from which the rural revival can stem in the future.

2. The essential fabric of the countryside which is, after all, the real attractor for tourists, has to be maintained. We must ensure that the farming community maintains its heart and commitment to the land once it has recovered from this severe body blow.

Tackling both issues is essential.

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