What is the future for Cumbrian tourism?

Published on 3 July 2020

We asked a special panel of experts to look at how the county’s major industry will comeback after coronavirus

Gill Haigh, managing director Cumbria Tourism
Gill Haigh photo
Tim Farron, Lib Dem MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale
Tim Farron photo
James Tasker, director of the Lakes Hospitality Association
James Tasker photo
Grant Seaton, senior business lending manager, The Cumberland
Grant Seaton photo
Can our £3.13bn tourism sector recover fully?

Yes, but it’s going to need a lot of support. We have lost more than half of that £3.13bn already. We want the Government to provide a package of support. We need the job retention scheme to continue for the hospitality sector, and some grants, as well as some relaxation of rates like VAT.

Gill Haigh

Yes – but not this year. 2020 will be damage limitation. We need a financial package from Government to see the sector through to spring. Without that, hundreds of businesses will go to the wall, with thousands of people unemployed. We’ve a 400 per cent rise in unemployment in my constituency.

Tim Farron

Yes, but it’s going to be a long journey. We need some sort of flexible support system to help businesses get through to the 2021/22 season, which is where they are going to be recouping and financially stabilising. I would like continuing furloughing, so we don’t have to lay off staff.

James Tasker

Yes, I believe so, but these will be tricky times over the next 18-24 months as consumer confidence starts to rebuild. Cumbria has dealt with many blows in the past and bounced back, but this is the biggest challenge of all because it is impacting everybody not just Cumbria.

Grant Seaton
Could Cumbria reap some benefits?

Yes, definitely, from an increase in staycations, people visiting quieter areas and coming at different times of the year. We’d encourage people living in the county to bring friends and family because you are not just supporting tourism businesses but communities, jobs and transport.

Gill Haigh

Yes. In 2019 the British spent £54bn on holidays and hospitality of which £14bn was in Britain; that’s an awful lot of money that could potentially be spent in the UK. Holidaying abroad may become too uncertain and difficult for many. We have an opportunity to get into a big market.

Tim Farron

Yes, we will see an upsurge in domestic visitors. However, all it will do is replace our huge international visitor market, which is not due to recover, in some instances, until 2024.

James Tasker

Yes, people who have been before may explore more secluded areas and we’ll attract new visitors, because if you were going to choose anywhere for a staycation why not choose somewhere with two World Heritage sites? Hopefully Cumbrians will spend more time exploring the county too.

Grant Seaton
Will people’s holidaying habits change?

Our survey of 3,000 visitors showed an increase in young people who’ll choose to holiday here, and people who will have more frequent holidays instead of going abroad. There are smart innovations such as restaurants sending menus to your phone, putting staff and customer safety first.

Gill Haigh

Yes, potentially. A recent poll of visitors showed 60 per cent had not been to the Lake District before. We need to capture their imaginations. They came not to mountains but to tarns, rivers and lakes on warm weekends. We also need to have more wet weather family entertainment options.

Tim Farron

I think so. We have seen that the general public is understanding and willing to abide by safety measures. They will dine out less frequently but maybe spend more when they do. I think the holiday cottage and lettings market could be strong. And we may see an extension of the season.

James Tasker

In the short term everybody will be thinking through their itinerary and looking to make bookings for travel, accommodation and attractions in advance. All businesses should get the Cumbria Tourism survey because it really gives you a heads-up of what consumers will want to see.

Grant Seaton
How can Cumbria manage crowding in popular areas?

I think, on the whole, we have seen responsible visiting, given nowhere has been open and toilets have been closed. When businesses start to reopen I think we will see people being absorbed into those attractions. We say very strongly to visitors, plan your visit and always pre-book in advance.

Gill Haigh

That’s a real problem. In order to keep people safe through distancing, businesses are foregoing profit. Cumbria has a glorious swathe of countryside not in the National Park that is not highly visited. We have to find ways to attract and disperse people around the county.

Tim Farron

A difficult one. The National Parks are looking into ways of communicating with people in advance when car parks are full, which is a great idea. Dispersing people into other areas, I think, will happen naturally. If places are rammed, business owners will be able to suggest other options for people.

James Tasker

I’m hopeful that people will be considerate of others and business owners will want to show a duty of care because it’s in their interests to do that. Technology will be important to help with bookings and telling people what to expect when they arrive to help maintain social distancing.

Grant Seaton