‘Business as usual’ message from Wiltshire

VisitWiltshire is promoting a business-as-usual message to visitors, following the poisoning of a couple in Amesbury, near Salisbury.

It is believed Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, were exposed to nerve agent Novichok, which was used to poison Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March.

The county’s tourism board is monitoring the impact on local tourism businesses and on the domestic and international travel trade.

Public Health England states that the risk to the public is low, and reports say the nerve agent was unlikely to have been left in the open.

VisitWiltshire is working with VisitBritain and TIER, the Tourism Industry Response Group, to monitor feedback from overseas offices on international sentiment.

It said: “There are currently no reports from VisitBritain offices or from the travel trade of any significant impact on international tourism to south Wiltshire.”

VisitWiltshire is also monitoring bookings, as it has done since the March 4 incident with the Skripals.

David Andrews, chief executive of VisitWiltshire, said: “It’s been a mixed picture, with some Salisbury tourism businesses reporting very little or no impact while others reporting losses as high as 40% for the March-June period with forward bookings a particular concern for smaller accommodation providers.

“The age 50+ domestic leisure visitor has been the segment most impacted.

“Salisbury is a highly popular visitor destination and, employing almost 10% of the local workforce, is a key contributor to the local economy.

“Tourism businesses across the city are operating very much as usual.  We will continue to monitor tourism business, travel trade and national tourism agencies to identify any possible future impacts.

“We continue to encourage local, regional, national and international visitors into the city –whether for a day visit or a longer stay – they will receive the warm and hospitable welcome the city is so well known for.”

A Salisbury tourism recovery plan is in place with a programme of consumer, travel trade and media activity.

As part of an ongoing Discover England Fund and GREAT branded marketing campaign, supplements in The Telegraph, The Times and The Guardian will be running advertisements this weekend attracting visitors to the Salisbury area.

UPDATED: A murder inquiry was launched on Sunday (July 8) after Dawn Sturgess died in hospital. Charlie Rowley remains critically ill in hospital.

The home secretary Sajid Javid had visited Salisbury and Amesbury earlier on Sunday to meet representatives of the emergency services and John Glen, MP for Salisbury.

He said: “What I have experienced in Amesbury and Salisbury is an overwhelming feeling of the community coming together. They have impressed the whole country with their response and have shown that Salisbury is open for business.”

Pictured: Decontamination work carried out in Salisbury after the Skripals were poisoned. Credit: Shutterstock.com.