BAD weather, swine flu and the recession are damaging tourism in Oxford, according to businesses which depend on visitors to the city.

They said the summer had so far been a wash-out, with visitor numbers and takings down across the city.

However, Oxford City Council said the number of tourists set to visit was on course to match the 9.1 million who came last year.

David Strainge, joint manager of open-top bus firm City Sightseeing Oxford, said the company was “treading water”.

He said: “We were hoping for a good season, after a promising start to the summer, but it has never come.

“We have had a very quiet July, because we rely on good weather. When it rains, our numbers are not good.

“The trade is there – when the sun shines people go on the tour, but there's not much we can do when the weather is bad.

"I think that the tourists are still in Oxford. It just seems they're not spending as much money.”

Andrew Howard, owner of Magdalen Bridge boathouse, which hires out punts, said: “I wouldn’t say business is brilliant – in fact, it's mediocre.

“The weather wasn't good in July, which is the main tourist season for us. Add in the recession and flu and the picture doesn’t look great.”

More than nine million visitors ploughed almost half-a-billion pounds into Oxford’s economy in 2007, according to figures released by Tourism South East.

Visitors spent on average £36 a day and helped support 11,462 jobs.

Tourism across Oxfordshire was worth more than £1.2bn in the same year, with 23.4m people heading to the county.

Ronel Marais, manager of the Tower House Hotel, in Ship Street, said: “There have been a few quiet days and we're probably slightly down on last year’s takings at this point.”

Operations manager at Salters Steamers, Liam Challis, said: “We have had some very quiet weekends.

“When the weather is good, we're extremely busy – last weekend is a perfect example. I would even say numbers for our public cruises have gone up since last year.

“But we're almost completely dependent on good weather, and there has been more rain than sun.”

But the city council was adamant the area was managing to attract tourists.

Michael Crofton Briggs, head of development, said footfall and income at the tourist information centre were both up on last year so far.

He said: “Many people are taking short breaks or day trips this year, because of the recession, and Oxford has benefited from that.”

The top five Oxford attractions are:

  • Castle Unlocked.
  • Carfax Tower.
  • Walking tours.
  • Open-top bus tours.
  • Christ Church (partly thanks to the Harry Potter films link.