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October 21, 2009

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British feel pinch, stay at homefor holidays

BRITISH tourist attractions such as the Roman spa at Bath received more visitors this summer than last, as penny-wise Britons spent their holidays at home, an industry body said yesterday.

British tourists are likely to stay put next summer as well, after the country's foremost museums, cathedrals, gardens and zoos welcomed 3.4 percent more visitors between May and August 2009 than a year earlier, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

"People stayed in Britain because it was very expensive to go abroad," said Robin Broke, director of the industry body that represents attractions such as the British Museum and Buckingham Palace.

Next year, he said, "people will still be concerned about their jobs. Their disposable income probably will still be pretty tight."

ALVA said the National Portrait Gallery reported a 23 percent increase in visitors while Bath's Roman baths recorded a rise of 6 percent.

Owing to the financial crisis and a weaker pound, which has fallen 4 percent against the euro since January, many in Britain chose to holiday at home this summer, a phenomenon dubbed "staycationing."

Although the number of foreign visitors to Britain fell 9 percent in the first eight months of the year, spending by foreigners dropped only 1 percent, Broke said.

'Good value'

"They actually spent almost the same as they spent the previous year," he said. "They are finding Britain good value."

For 2009 as a whole, Broke said he expected a drop of 5 percent in international tourists, with travel picking up in the latter half of the year as economies stabilized.

Tourism is Britain's fifth largest industry by revenue, generating 86 billion pounds (US$140 billion) a year for the economy.

This represents about 8 percent of GDP.

The Office for National Statistics reported in August that the number of Britons traveling abroad fell 10 percent in the year to June 2009 compared with a year earlier.


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