The UK government has launched an urgent online offensive to try and woo tourists back into the countryside during the ongoing foot and mouth crisis.
"Britain is open for business and ready to welcome guests," said Culture Secretary Chris Smith at Madame Tussaud's in London as he unveiled a new website, www.openbritain.gov.uk.
The site can be searched for up-to-date information on the UK's 15,000 most important visitor attractions and events. It links to key information sites, provides tips for walkers, lists guidance for visiting affected areas and gives up to date information on government measures to bring foot and mouth under control.
Surveys showed around 80 per cent of tourist attractions are open and over 90 per cent of planned events are going ahead. But the problem for visitors in recent weeks has been finding out where is open and where is closed.
According to industry sources, around £10m of emergency funding has been found to tackle the problem, with an undisclosed amount funding the Open Britain website.
At the heart of the site is a database and search engine developed by an IT team working for the British Tourist Authority (BTA).
BTA spokesman Peter Varlow said: "We were contacted less than a week ago and asked to help. We've been working full-time, round-the-clock, all weekend. It's such an awful crisis - it's been nice to be able to do something to help."
One of the key criteria was that information on the site was current, so a massive mail-out to 15,000 tourist sites, museums and galleries was organised and the responses are being used to refresh the new web pages.
"The Government and tourism organisations and agencies up and down the country have joined forces to set up this website and obtain the latest information on what people can see and do," said Chris Smith. "It will continue to be developed and improved in the coming days and weeks to provide more co-ordinated and easy to access information."
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