Our special panel of experts look at how the county’s major industry is coping with the aftermath of the coronavirus lockdown.
Due to limitations about where people can holiday this year, Cumbria has welcomed lots of new, first-time visitors. It’s been great to see visitors exploring new areas and discovering hidden gems. The vast, vast majority of people are enjoying the place in a respectful way, so the behaviour of a small minority is a great shame.
It also shows how many people want to visit and share their support and love of the Lakes. It also shows The strength of community spirit and how businesses have rallied to welcome visitors back but only when it was safe to do so. The visitor economy supports many jobs and services.
Britain continues to love the Lake District. It has been wonderful to see the relief on people’s faces as they get out into nature again after what has been a stressful time for everyone. Even on the wettest days of recent weeks, I’ve seen some of the biggest smiles of my career on the faces of our visitors!
I think that tourism has bounced back quicker than most people expected. A lot of businesses would have been thinking about what the future holds, but in the short-term things have really picked up. The future is still uncertain, with the prospect of lockdowns and recessions, but it seems the demand is there for now.
As our own research predicted, there is a renewed emphasis on personal wellbeing, enjoying experiences in family or friendship bubbles. All businesses, including accommodation, have proactively adapted their offer to ensure visitor reassurance; self-catering, camping, caravanning, glamping and motorhomes have all proved popular, as has serviced accommodation.
The trends we are seeing indicate a demand for all accommodation types however self catering and glamping does seem especially strong at present with demand outstripping supply in some cases.
We’re seeing a greater demand for self catering and camping across the Lakes; but we’re also seeing many more day visits to our forests at Whinlatter and Grizedale from Cumbrian residents in nearby towns. Our core offer to the nation hasn’t changed – the spectacular landscape and our historic and cultural attractions remain for everyone to enjoy.
The Lake District sells itself - it hasn’t changed; there are still great attractions and fantastic scenery. We’re obviously seeing more UK- based visitors, but visitor numbers from outside the UK have taken a hit. It would be good to make better use of Carlisle Airport if we are to replace the overseas sector.
We all have a role in looking after this beautiful place. We’ll continue to work with our partners to support responsible visiting, emphasizing following the Countryside Code, by planning ahead and respecting our landscape. We have called for a national campaign on the importance of us all playing our part.
Our businesses have been pushing this message intermittently on social media as a gentle reminder to our visitors. We do need more people on the ground as visual reminders too. The majority of visitors do act responsibly whilst visiting the National Park and take litter home where possible.
Sadly, there have been challenges with antisocial behaviour, vandalism and extreme litter. Land managers and public agencies have been working hard to tackle this. The environment and conservation sector has been looking to attract new audiences to the countryside for years; they’ve arrived and I look at this as broadly positive.
The message is either not being heard or people are non-compliant - either way, it needs to be pressed upon people and reinforced. All businesses need to ensure they are taking that responsibility to get the message across, but ultimately it’s down to individuals to think about their own footprint.
Our message continues to be ‘think ahead and always pre-book in advance’. Being ‘adventure smart’ is all about planning trips well, following government guidelines and respecting local communities. People should also think flexibly about where they go, as well as considering visits at different, quieter times of day.
We all have a responsibility to act responsibly. Responsible tourism means tourists will have a favourite place to come back to.
The last thing I would want to see is the Lake District filled with dramatic signs and enforcement at every stile – respect will come in time from enjoyment. We need to be targeted in our messaging; educating new visitors positively in a style that resonates with them; and focus our limited ranger teams on persistent trouble spots.
The most important thing is to plan ahead. Accommodation is booked up, and hopefully that remains so, but if you’re visiting there needs to be some forward planning. People need to think about where they can pitch a tent or park their motorhome, and if they’re using ‘throw away’ tents or barbecues, how are they going to dispose of them?