WORCESTERSHIRE is still open for business, say tourism operators desperately trying to attract visitors from outside the county.

The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak has devastated the tourism industry during recent weeks.With public footpaths and bridleways closed, fewer people are visiting other tourist attractions.

The Heart of England Tourist Board has estimated that tourism is the third largest industry in Worcestershire, behind retail and manufacturing. In 1998, 13 million visitors generated £400m income in the county.

"Although walking and other activities are restricted in the countryside, the tourism team are telling visitors there are still lots of reasons to come to Worcestershire," said Kathryn Wagstaff, tourism officer with Worcestershire County Council.

"One of Worcestershire's strengths as a tourist destination is its diversity, including its many attractive towns."

She said many day-trippers hailed from neighbouring urban areas, including Birmingham.

"We hope that these people will still come and visit attractions that are open, such as Royal Worcester Porcelain and the Cathedral," added Ms Wagstaff.

"We do not want to exacerbate the problems in the countryside and we are stressing that we are only encouraging urban-to-urban tourism.''

The Commandery and Elgar Birthplace Centre and Museum remain open to the public.

Historic riverside towns such as Bewdley, Evesham and Pershore and the spa town of Droitwich will also welcome tourists.