The hospitality and tourism industry is unlikely to be affected by the latest foot-and-mouth outbreak as long as it remains contained, according to the chief executive of the British Hospitality Association.
Speaking to Caterer, Bob Cotton praised the speedy government response and said “lessons had been learnt” from the 2001 crisis.
He added the disease would only be a problem for the sector if it spread outside restricted areas.
The virus was found in cattle on a farm near Guildford in Surrey at the weekend and 97 animals were culled. A second outbreak was identified last night in a herd within the larger protection zone in Surrey and their slaughter had been ordered by chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds.
Cotton said: “Everyone has reacted quickly. Last time is took them [government] a week to realise and three weeks to take action. The fact they have taken action in 24 hours gives a strong, reassuring message that people are on the case and people are less likely to panic and cancel bookings. We are at the waiting stage. If there are no more cases in the next 14 days we can start to breathe a sight of relief.”
He added that he had called a number of BHA members in the Guildford area who confirmed their businesses had not suffered in any way. “A few footpaths are closed but there’s little business in the three mile [restriction] zone and there’s no major visitor attraction there.”
A spokeswoman for Pennyhill Park Hotel in nearby Bagshot confirmed that it had not received any cancellations to date.
The last outbreak, which started in 2001, lasted almost a year and cost the economy more than £8b. Tourism was also badly hit as the crisis, coupled with the 11 September attacks, saw inbound visitor numbers drop to only 22.84 million that year.
By Helen Gilbert
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