YORK tourism bosses are expecting a slump in American visitors because of heightened terrorist tension in Britain.

Staff at the city's tourist information centre, in St Leonard's Place, have notice a marked decline in visitor enquiries from the U.S. - both by telephone and email.

York Tourism Bureau bosses feel the situation is bound to get worse due to the threat of a potential war with Iraq.

Kay Hyde, the bureau's PR manager, returned from a promotional trip to America two weeks ago.

She said: "We are expecting a rough ride and anticipating difficult times ahead. Some of the people I spoke to in America were frightened about flying, especially younger people.

"They were worried about the possibility of being singled out for being American, or singled out as a potential terrorist target."

Earlier this week the Evening Press reported how American tourists were starting to come back to York, following a slump in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Now the tourism bureau is trying to encourage Americans to visit York, hoping American journalists will publish favourable articles on the city.

The target market is senior visitors, looking to book a second trip to Britain. The industry is hoping UK visitors will make up the shortfall.

Gillian Cruddas, chief executive of the tourism bureau, said today: "We are currently concentrating our marketing efforts on the UK, but continuing to nurture the U.S. and European markets.

"U.S. visitors are vital to York's economy and we are encouraged that U.S. visitors appear to be slowly coming back. The current situation with Iraq will undoubtedly have a negative effect on U.S. visitors to Britain."

Updated: 10:39 Saturday, February 15, 2003