Tony Blair today pledged to step up the bid to bring overseas tourists back to Britain.

The Prime Minister headed to North Yorkshire as it was predicted the foot-and-mouth crisis would cost the UK tourist industry £5 billion.

Earnings in the worst hit areas have already fallen by up to 80 per cent.

Mr Blair was attempting to boost visitor numbers in Yorkshire as Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott went to the Norfolk Broads to do the same.

Mr Blair was being interviewed by US, French and Japanese media in a bid to stop anxious foreign tourists cancelling their holidays.

Publicity across the Atlantic will be a major boost for York and North Yorkshire, which welcomes thousands of American visitors every year.

He said: "Britain is open. The vast majority of tourist attractions are open.

"We've simply got to get across a proper sense of perspective."

Mr Blair, accompanied by his wife Cherie, was being met by about 100 York schoolchildren at Jorvik, the city's new-look Viking Centre, re-opening tomorrow after a £5 million refurbishment.

The Prime Minister also took time to speak directly to the people of York on a local radio phone-in.

Mr Blair told BBC Radio York: "There is absolutely no way we could compensate everybody in the tourist industry - the most important thing is to get some of those images changed and reversed."

Mr Blair will follow his York visit by travelling to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food base in Leeds, before visiting farmers in Haworth, near Keighley.

He was due to announce that Yorkshire businesses ravaged by the foot and mouth crisis can apply for emergency loans of up to £250,000.

Read more about the foot and mouth crisis here.

Updated: 13.01 Friday, April 6