Our panel of experts look at how the county’s crucially important tourism sector will respond to the challenges of 2021
I think that the Cumbrian tourism sector will be at full capacity when we can all reopen as people are desperate to be free in our amazing landscape. Our accommodation is booking very fast, with many short-stay bookings.
I think we will be exceptionally busy. Personally speaking, as soon as we were allowed to open last year, our bedrooms were fully booked and all of our weddings from last year have been postponed to this year, so we have a phenomenally busy July, August and September.
Assuming the lockdown roadmap goes ahead as planned, we’re going to see a big year for Cumbria’s tourism sector. I don’t think it will make up for nearly a year’s loss of business but it will be a positive step towards the industry getting back on its feet.
All indications are that it is going to be a high-volume year, with the staycation boom really picking up speed. I’ve heard from tourism operators that when the announcement was made that we were coming out of lockdown, there was a booking every five seconds.
We will see foreign visitors replaced with UK visitors during the next couple of years. We need to use this time to consider and implement more plans to accommodate all visitors in an ecological way. The Lakes environment has had a well-earned rest over the last year.
If UK residents stay in the UK and spend their money within the UK then that would help Cumbria cope. The bigger places in the Lake District rely on footfall, so if people do make the effort to support British businesses, then they should be okay.
With such a large predicted increase in domestic visitors to the region in 2021, hopefully this loss will be made up to an extent. Domestic visitors are also more likely than international visitors to return to the region, so providing a positive experience for them now can have longer-term knock-on effects.
I’m hearing that domestic visitors are likely to replace overseas visitors. There are typical times of year like after the summer holidays when bookings drop overnight – it’s not going to do that this year. People will be pushed out into the ‘shoulder months’ and take holidays in months that they wouldn’t normally.
Flights to sun-drenched and other cultural foreign destinations will always play a part in how we relax, learn about and experience the rest of the planet, I just hope that we can learn to balance this with the amazing offer we have in our own country.
A lot of people are discovering the Lake District for the first time, and realising what a beautiful part of the world we live in. People may also want to rent somewhere where the whole family can get together after so long apart, and without the hassle and uncertainty of flights.
People have missed seeing one another and spending time together, so we expect a lot of extended family holidays and friends going away together. We’ve also seen an increased interest in pet-friendly stays – with many people having got dogs during lockdown – and in luxury stays.
I suspect people will be looking to go less urban and more rural. Everyone’s been cooped up at home so they want to get out, and there’s probably still going to be a nervousness about large events and busy city centres. In Cumbria you might see people finding different areas.
We need to keep on promoting the message that our sensitive landscapes will only survive and provide solace if everyone looks after them. People have become more aware of how smaller, simpler things impact on our lives and I hope there might be an awakening of interest in those things.
We weren’t directly affected by the issues of overcrowding but if there’s one thing we could learn from that collectively it is to look outside the tourist hotspots. We’re in an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and people are slowly finding us, and those who do love it.
Most local businesses did an excellent job handling increased visitor numbers within the restrictions. It’s vital that businesses and locals give a cohesive message to visitors that we are delighted to welcome them back, but that everyone needs to be considerate and thoughtful to one another.
The idea of attract and disperse - diverting attention to the less busy parts of Cumbria like the West Coast or Eskdale, for example. There is also the responsibility that visitors bear, but I don’t think anyone sets out to be irresponsible - so hopefully the lesson is just about educating visitors.