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The Big Ben clocktower, one of London's most famous landmarks, rises above the Westminster Underground subway station. - 


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Where are you planning to go on your vacation this year? Britain is launching a marketing campaign this week to persuade the U.S. to visit the U.K. But the Brits are worried since Americans seem to prefer more exotic destinations. From London, Stephen Beard reports.

STEPHEN BEARD: Three and a half million Americans visited Britain last year, 17% fewer than in the year 2000.

9/11 and the fear of terrorism account for some of that decline, and so do food scares following Britain's foot-and-mouth epidemic.

But tourism officials here say that by now the U.S. visitor numbers should have bounced back.

They're worried, says Roger Blitz of the Financial Times, that Americans may now regard Britain as a slightly boring destination.

ROGER BLITZ: There's a brag factor in which an American who says, 'Oh, I've just been to India or China or Vietnam' goes down much better back home than if he said, 'I've just been back to the U.K. again.'

In their new marketing campaign, the Brits will emphasize U.K. history and heritage, with a dash of the exotic and even downright bizarre.

Among the activities highlighted will be training to be knight of the Round Table and snorkeling through a swamp.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.