Yesterday (Sunday 27 September) marked World Tourism Day, organised annually by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation to highlight the importance of tourism for all parts of our society.

Cumbria Tourism Chairman Jim Walker explains why he believes this message is more important than ever.

He says, “The Lake District, Cumbria is one of Britain’s few truly world-class destinations. There is no doubt that our environment, our culture and our way of life are fundamental to the success of tourism AND the wellbeing of the people who live here. In turn, tourism helps our communities hold onto a uniquely Cumbrian culture and heritage, supporting local communities and ways of life.

 “However, Cumbria is far more dependent on tourism than most other parts of the UK. Before COVID hit, the industry contributed £3.13billion annually to the local economy. It is also a leading source of employment, supporting 65,500 jobs and helping to sustain diverse, vibrant local communities.

“Sadly, the pandemic has brought the world to a standstill and our sector is among the hardest hit. More than £1.5billion has already been wiped off the county’s tourism income this year and trading over the last two and a half months alone will not recoup those financial losses. 

With reduced capacity and ever-evolving government restrictions, businesses are now critically concerned about the traditionally quieter autumn and winter period.  Cumbria Tourism’s latest research shows that business confidence is plummeting and the industry will continue to be impacted for many months to come, which is why we are renewing our calls to extend the support the Government has already provided with a winter package to protect jobs, support businesses and support customers.

 “As they have reopened, many tourism operators have had to rethink their business models; the county too now needs to rethink how it supports the visitor economy in a changed world.

This innovative mindset will be vital over the coming months to face the complexities of the ever-changing restrictions we face.

 “As ever, Cumbria’s tourism and hospitality businesses have shown resilience, guts and sheer hard work and determination in the face of adversity. On this World Tourism Day, there is certainly an opportunity to rethink how things are done in the tourism sector.

“The spirit of World Tourism Day is cooperation and collaboration. This resonates strongly with our tourism industry here in Cumbria and is precisely why the role of Cumbria Tourism is so important – helping everyone to work together towards a common goal and supporting both individual businesses and the sector as a whole.

“For example, Cumbria Tourism’s #theperfectplacetobe Recovery Marketing Campaign is supporting the safe return of the visitor market by inspiring visits and supporting businesses during the crucial autumn and winter period.

 “We are also constantly gathering and reviewing market intelligence. A newly-launched visitor survey will help the organisation to understand more about this year’s visitor, to support effective destination management and marketing. Meanwhile, the rich data from our latest business tracker research enables us to fight for our industry at the highest levels in this complex and ever-evolving situation.

 “None of this would be possible without our tourism member businesses, who are the lifeblood of the organisation. We don’t know exactly what is to come in the coming weeks and this will be a World Tourism Day like no other, but it is a timely reminder that together we are stronger.”

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