BUSINESSES in the Burnham and Highbridge area are fighting a desperate battle to persuade tourists that not all of Somerset is underwater.

The Weekly News has spoken to businesses who say the pictures of the flooded Somerset Levels on the national news have caused visitors to stay away, in the mistaken belief that the whole county is affected.

With schools off for half-term this week, businesses in Burnham say trade is well down on normal, and they are trying to spread the word that despite the battering the area has taken from the weather, tourist attractions are still open.

Stuart Nash, owner of the Old Rectory Motel in Brean, said: “It has definitely hit our business. Every customer who calls thinks everywhere in Somerset is flooded. The only flooded bit here is called the sea.”

Chris Searle, assistant manager at Burnham and Berrow Golf Club, said: “People calling from the Birmingham area think everywhere in Somerset is flooded.

“We have had calls from up north saying that 'I hear Somerset is underwater' and we have to tell them we're not.”

Louise Parkin, manager of Burnham Pavilion, said: “It has been devastating for us. The last month we have hardly had any customers at all on the pier.

“Customers from Newport and Birmingham are seeing on the news that all of Somerset is a disaster zone because that's a better story than we've had a bit of bad weather.”

Burnham and Highbridge Mayor Martin Cox said: “People have seen the floods on TV so they've been calling to ask whether the town is still open and if they should still come down here for their holiday. We're saying 'absolutely - there's loads to do, both indoors and out, and a really warm welcome awaits'.”

People across Somerset have been campaigning on twitter with the hashtags #OpenForBusiness and #SupportSomerset, calling for tourists to visit the area.

Ian Jefferies, Burnham's business and tourism manager, said: “Everything is open and working as normal. Burnham looks forward to welcoming you and our businesses need your support."