"Almost half the potential visitors to the UK are concerned about the foot and mouth outbreak," said a spokesman for the British Tourist Authority, as he explained why tourism figures and spending in the UK has plummeted this year.

In April, spending by foreign tourists had dropped by 22% on the previous year, and experts predict a similar decline in figures for May and June. Hotels, restaurants and theatres are all reporting a significant slump in sales, and BTA spokesman Jo Leslie continued: "As many people have heard of foot and mouth as have heard of Coke."

Last week, upmarket restaurant chain Groupe Chez Gerard issued a profit warning on the back of the foot and mouth crisis. CEO David Williams commented: "We believe tourism has collapsed and I don't think anybody is immune from the impact."