THE region's tourism chiefs are backing a call for an extra bank holiday.

The holiday for September, proposed by Cumbria Tourist Board, would help the industry recover some of the trade lost through falling visitor numbers to the countryside.

With rural areas likely to be out of bounds for some time, businesses are gearing themselves for a lean summer.

Alma Gale runs a cafe and tourist information point at Tow Law, County Durham.

She said if they do not have their quota of visitors this summer, there will be nothing to tide them through the winter.

She said: "Even if foot-and-mouth is reaching its climax now, it is still four to six months before the land reopens, and it is the trade in the summer holidays which tides us over to the winter.

"I think another bank holiday is a good idea."

Bob Pendlebury, chairman of Northumbria Tourist Board, wants to see an extra holiday and is pressing the Government for compensation for the sector.

Mr Pendlebury, who is also deputy leader of Durham County Council, said: "If it encourages people to go out and use the facilities and accommodation, an extra holiday would be an advantage.

"We have so much wonderful countryside in this region, and the tourism business is suffering and there's no compensation for them.

"Fortunately, there's something for the farmers to cling on to. Whether we can encourage the Government to introduce the same thing for tourism - which we are trying to do at the moment - is another matter."

North Yorkshire County Council said the county's tourism industry would also benefit from an autumn holiday.