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While US tourists spurn pricy UK, business is booming Stateside

14 November 2007
The number of American tourists visiting Britain could slump to its lowest level since the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, according to UK tour operators.

The weakness of the dollar against the pound – now worth $2.10 – has already become a major deterrent to US tourists which make up the largest proportion of foreign visitors to the UK, and may force British companies to cut jobs.

Following the news that the number of Americans and Canadians coming to Britain fell by five per cent between January and August this year, tourism leaders have called for the Government to reverse its decision to cut funding for the national tourist board.

Stephen Dowd, Chief Executive of UKinbound, the tourism trade association, comments: “We’ve had a pretty difficult year already, given the problems with the US economy and sub-prime lending, but we’re very worried now. The next two to three months are crucial for bookings for next year. I spoke to a couple of inbound tour operators the other day and they have their heads in their hands wondering what they are going to do.”

The gloom on this side of the Atlantic has sparked a wave of transatlantic shopping trips to New York; however, Brits hoping to find a decent hotel are going to be hard pressed. Statistics from Post Office Travel Insurance have revealed that UK holidaymakers will have to look beyond the traditional favourite, New York, where most affordable hotels have already hung out the ‘no vacancies’ signs.

Post Office Head of Travel Services Helen Warburton explains: “Bargain hunters with more pounds in their pockets after sterling breached the $2 watershed can make significant savings on iPods and Playstation 3s, designer jeans and fashion accessories just as easily in cities like Las Vegas and Boston as in New York.

“What’s more,” adds Warburton, “Christmas shoppers can save even more money because short break packages in these cities are up to 24 percent lower than those for New York which have already sold out.”

New York flights are also being snapped up – with little or no availability for weekend trips. British Airways has even announced that it may increase the frequency of services to New York to cope with demand, and Virgin Atlantic is reporting a 16 percent surge in bookings to the Big Apple.

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