Latest research from Cumbria Tourism reveals the full impact of the pressures Cumbria’s tourism businesses are facing as they head toward winter – and the continuing importance of the organisation’s lobbying work to get behind the industry.

Findings from the organisation’s latest Business Performance Survey underline not only the devastating impact of spiralling costs, but also shrinking profits, significant staff shortages and an increasingly uncertain future for tourism operators across the county.

It’s a challenging picture Cumbria Tourism will be highlighting with MPs, trade bodies and central government – to ensure the county’s visitor economy isn’t overlooked by local, regional and national decision-makers.

The up-to-the-minute research has been carried out over the past three weeks in conjunction with Cumbrian accountancy firm Lamont Pridmore. It indicates that the standout concerns highlighted by Cumbria’s tourism businesses include rising energy bills (95%), fuel costs (72%) and inflation (69%), as well as worries about passing cost increases on to customers (74%).

On average, gas and electricity bills have increased by 120% for tourism operators – and as much as 300% for some – with visitor spend also down across the board and levels of debt up for a quarter of these businesses.

The results also reveal significant ongoing challenges around staffing and skills shortages. 73% of businesses say recruitment is a problem, with more than half citing it as a ‘significant problem’. A lack of applicants is an issue for 78% and this is compounded by a loss of European staff post-Brexit.  This lack of staff is limiting business capacity and forcing temporary or partial closures for almost half of businesses.

There are also deep-seated concerns about a lack of affordable housing for staff (89% find this a problem to some degree), alongside the cost of travel for employees (84%).

“Once again, this real-life data direct from tourism businesses underlines the direct impact of rising costs on our visitor economy,” says the Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh.

“Last week’s mini-budget, along with the recent announcement that energy bills for businesses will be capped for six months, were welcome recognition of the need for action. However, there is still a need to clarify the longer-term arrangements for businesses tackling rising costs and inflationary pressures.

“For instance, we don’t know the Government’s criteria for ‘the most vulnerable’ businesses who will receive continued support beyond the immediate six months.  We’re also waiting to hear more detail about non-domestic consumers who use heating oil or alternative fuels instead of gas.

“As an industry, tourism and hospitality has a disproportionately higher energy use than other sectors and the knock-on impact of this needs to be fully recognised as soon as possible. Cumbria’s tourism businesses are already feeling the squeeze, but really are reluctant to pass the prices directly onto its customers who are themselves already facing hardship.

She continues, “Our research also clearly shows that ongoing issues around recruitment, retention and skills haven’t gone away and we’re again calling on the Government to extend the Youth Mobility Scheme to other countries to help bring more new talent into the local workforce.

“In the meantime, we will continue to fight Cumbria’s corner through our ongoing lobbying work with MPs, key government departments and national industry bodies including The Tourism Alliance and UK Hospitality.”

The Cumbria Tourism team is out in force at the Westmorland Show (7 and 8 September 2021), to launch a new seasonal marketing campaign aimed at supporting tourism businesses through the crucial autumn and winter months.

Amid growing concerns over rising costs, the county’s official Destination Marketing Organisation will be forging ahead with a series of high-profile marketing activities to support concerned businesses and build momentum for forward bookings at a traditionally quieter time of year for the county’s visitor economy.

 As well as inviting tourism operators to get involved in the campaign, the strong Cumbria Tourism contingent at the Westmorland Show is speaking directly to would-be visitors. It’s also a chance to highlight the money-saving MyCumbria card, which offers a range of discounts on shopping, food and drink, and things to do for local residents.

Under the banner of #theperfectplacetobe, there will be plenty of online competitions and digital activity to promote special offers and themed stays, as well as practical support to help businesses with their own targeted seasonal marketing.

Promoting large-scale events will also be a key priority in the coming weeks, with October earmarked as ‘Attractions Month’ to encourage people to make the most of Cumbria’s vast array of unique attractions and experiences.

Other upcoming highlights include Carlisle’s City of Light (Friday 21-Sunday 23 October), featuring immersive sound/light experiences and illuminated landmarks throughout the city – as part of the wider Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival.  Also just around the corner are this year’s Winter Droving (Saturday 29 October) and the two-week Cumbria’s Dark Skies Festival (Friday 28 October to Monday 14 November), alongside a series of winter markets and Christmas fairs across the county.

To help bolster high street retail, Cumbria Tourism will soon be launching a virtual Christmas Market to provide direct access to quintessentially Cumbrian gifts, produce and experience/ accommodation vouchers and provide an alternative to impersonal global online retailers.

Head of Partnerships & Projects at Cumbria Tourism, Rachel Tyson, says, “Many tourism businesses have experienced a mixed summer, and with rising costs at the forefront of their minds, it’s crucial that we fight hard to support our visitor economy and inspire all-year-round bookings. This campaign is geared towards being as proactive as possible to encourage overnight stays and extend the season, in order to ensure that Lake District, Cumbria is the number one choice for visitors this winter.”

Cumbria Tourism’s attendance at the Westmorland Show is just part of an ongoing presence at face-to-face shows and events. The team were also showcasing the county at one of England’s most spectacular annual outdoor events, Chatsworth Country Fair, last weekend. That follows attendance at the Great Yorkshire Show, the Royal Lancashire Show, The Royal Cheshire County Show and the Northumberland Show in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, there is a packed programme of travel trade shows lined up for the autumn including the UKinbound Convention, World Travel Market and the Group Leisure & Travel Show.

Cumbria Tourism has been nominated as ‘Destination Management Organisation of the Year’ in the UKinbound Awards for Excellence.

The much sought-after awards recognise businesses and individuals that have made a significant contribution to attracting international visitors and engaging with the overseas travel trade.

‘DMO of the Year’ is one of the most prestigious categories, with the shortlist whittled down by a panel of industry leaders and the final winners set to be announced at a special ceremony in Aberdeen on Thursday 29 September.

As the county’s official Destination Management Organisation – or DMO – the Cumbria Tourism team represents both the wider destination and its member businesses and partners on the world stage using the ‘Visit Lake District’ brand.

Cumbria Tourism has continued to forge international relationships and product development, despite the challenges of the last two years – working tirelessly to maintain relationships with inbound operators, supporting traditional travel trade ready products and offering business support to operators taking their first steps into working in international markets.

Over the past year alone the organisation has forged direct one-to-one relationships at a wide variety of events including Britain & Ireland Marketplace, MeetGB, ExploreGB, North American Marketplace, Japan on-line Travelmart, UKinbound Convention, Lake District Travel Trade Showcase and the British Tourism and Travel Show.

This international promotion is ongoing and just this week Cumbria Tourism will be joining more than a dozen of the county’s top attractions and accommodation providers heading to the United States to promote the region in the first large-scale international trade mission since the global pandemic.

Cumbria Tourism’s Managing Director, Gill Haigh, says, “We are absolutely thrilled to be recognised at such a prestigious awards ceremony, it’s such an honour just to be shortlisted as DMO of the Year. The whole team are thrilled with the news!

“The work we’re doing internationally is crucial to cementing the county’s reputation as a world-class visitor experience. Before the pandemic, 14% of visitors to Cumbria were from overseas. This is something we’re looking to develop and grow in years to come.”

Cumbria is well-represented at this year’s awards, as Lake District Country Hotels have been shortlisted in the ‘Accommodation Provider of The Year’ category and Mountain Goat have also been nominated as ‘Sightseeing Operator of The Year’.

Meanwhile Joe Cobb from Lake District Country Hotels has been nominated for the ‘Members Choice Award’.

The winners of UKinbound Awards for Excellence will be announced on Thursday 29 September. See the full shortlist here.

Cumbria Tourism is welcoming today’s news of a new Energy Bill Relief Scheme, which the Government says could cut predicted energy bills by around half for non-domestic customers.

This morning’s announcement confirmed a government discount on wholesale gas and electricity prices, fixing prices at £211 per MWh for electricity and £75 per MWh for gas for six months from 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023.

There will also be a review after three months to decide on future support for ‘the most vulnerable’ non-domestic customers, although it is unclear which sectors will benefit from this continued support.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “As Cumbria’s official Destination Management Organisation, we have been calling for urgent action to tackle the spiralling energy costs impacting the county’s tourism industry for some weeks and we are glad the Government is listening to the needs of businesses who need help now. 

“Emerging data from our latest Business Performance Survey indicates that rising energy bills are the number one challenge for tourism businesses in our county, with a staggering 95% highlighting it as a key concern.

“The research, carried out in conjunction with accountancy firm Lamont Pridmore, indicates that gas and electricity bills have already increased by an average of 120% for tourism operators – and by as much as 300% for some. So today’s announcement is undoubtedly a huge relief for Cumbria’s tourism operators.”

She continues, “Looking ahead, it’s still unclear which businesses will meet the Government’s criteria of being classified as ‘vulnerable’ and qualify for continued support beyond the immediate six months.

“It’s well documented that tourism businesses use a disproportionately high amount of energy compared to other sectors and we will be strongly arguing the case for further clarity on longer-term support to provide greater certainty in the coming months.

“We will continue to fight Cumbria’s corner through our ongoing lobbying work with MPs, key government departments and national industry bodies including The Tourism Alliance and UK Hospitality.”

Cumbria Tourism has cautiously welcomed today’s Government announcement that energy bills for businesses will be capped for six months, but further detail is still needed to give tourism operators the certainty they require to plan for the challenging months ahead.

Earlier today Liz Truss announced a six month ‘Energy Price Guarantee’ for businesses to cap the maximum price per kilowatt hour (kWH). There will be a government review after three months to consider potential ongoing focused support for ‘vulnerable industries’ such as hospitality.

Although this is welcome recognition of the need for urgent action on commercial energy that Cumbria Tourism has been calling for, it’s already been confirmed that support for domestic customers will remain in place for two years and Cumbria’s official Destination Management Organisation is calling for more clarity on the long-term support available for businesses.

Gill Haigh, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism says “We are pleased that the urgent calls for support that we and the industry have been making have been heard and it will be important now that clarity regarding the plan is provided as quickly as possible.

“We’ve seen examples of businesses throughout the county having to consider shutting doors due to staggering renewal prices. After more than two and a half years of hardship recovering from the pandemic, the last thing the industry needed was a staggering jump in electricity prices – given the disproportionately high usage when compared to other industries.

“Hospitality businesses are already feeling the squeeze and are reluctant to pass the prices directly onto their customers who are themselves already facing hardship. Today’s news is a really positive step, but more clarity is still needed.”

As part of its ongoing lobbying, Cumbria Tourism’s specialist research team is currently surveying tourism-related businesses through its new ‘business tracker’ survey to gather first-hand evidence to make Cumbria’s case with national decision-makers.

Meanwhile Chief Executive at Lamont Pridmore, Graham Lamont, has this advice for businesses: “Everyone must still take all possible energy saving measures and review their new energy costs over the winter, including any fixed price deals (which you may have committed to in recent weeks) and compare how the new energy measures affect you. 

“Businesses must do all they can to ensure they remain profitable over the next 12 to 24 months of trading. Your financial forecasts may require you to seek further advice from your accountants to help secure additional bank finance to see you through the next 24 months because of the energy and inflationary pressures affecting your business.”

He adds, “The energy measures are expected to cost up to £150bn in additional Government borrowing which will put pressure on the UK’s international borrowing ability leading to an expected increase in interest rates and the costs of borrowing. It may also result in a lower value of the Pound which will lead to a further increase in the cost of imported goods and more inflationary pressure for UK businesses.”

 

Ahead of World EV Day this Friday 9 September and World Tourism Day later this month (27 September), Cumbria Tourism has teamed up with the Lloyd Motor Group to travel the length and breadth of the county in an electric vehicle – talking to a wide range of tourism businesses about their current concerns, challenges and opportunities.

This month also marks exactly 5 years since Gill Haigh took the helm as Managing Director and over the next four weeks, she will hit the road to visit tourism operators in as many locations as possible, from Sedbergh, Carlisle and the west coast to the Lake District, Morecambe Bay and many more.

Along the way, Gill will be joined by key tourism figures including Cumbria Tourism’s Chairman Dan Visser and President Jim Walker to speak directly to businesses on their home turf.

As well as getting to the heart of issues such as spiralling costs, recruitment challenges and staff housing, it’s also part of wider efforts to signpost leaner, greener ways of living and working.

Cumbria’s official Destination Management Organisation hopes the partnership with the Lloyd Motor Group will highlight the benefits of going electric – and help tackle some of the misconceptions around charging, battery reliability and range anxiety.

The tour in the electric BMW iX got underway with an official key-handover at Lloyd South Lakes BMW in Lindale today.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “I always enjoy getting out meeting businesses face-to-face, whether they are long-standing tourism operators or newer emerging companies wanting to forge new connections. Right now, there is deep-seated concern about skyrocketing costs and it is vital we get detailed feedback about what’s happening on the ground, in order to make the strongest possible case for support from high-level decision makers – not least to the new Prime Minister.

“Sustainable tourism is also an increasingly important focus for us and supporting our members to work in the most sustainable way they can is a key part of this. For instance, this latest initiative builds on a recent joint project between Cumbria Tourism and our Patrons Electricity North West to support small tourism operators wanting to provide electric vehicle charging for their visitors.

“A special thanks goes out to the Lloyd Motor Group, who have made this important county-wide tour possible.”

Local business development manager and EV expert, Jonathan Jeffery, says, “We are looking forward to working alongside Cumbria Tourism and assisting them on what will be a dynamic and forward-thinking project to futureproof the Cumbrian tourism industry and establish ourselves as industry leaders in sustainability.

“The future is definitely electric and here at Lloyd Motor Group we are committed to helping both customers and businesses make the switch. As the Government aims for an end to combustion engines by 2030, there is no better time to be learning more about EV’s.

“Across the month of September, we will be teaming up with Cumbria Tourism to bring you honest, down to earth commentary on what it’s like to be living with electric. Follow Lloyd Carlisle BMW, Lloyd Cockermouth BMW and Lloyd South Lakes BMW to find out what we’re getting up to.”

More than a dozen of the Lake District’s top attractions and accommodation providers are heading to the United States next week to promote Cumbria to international visitors.

It’s the first large scale international trade mission since the global pandemic.

The Destination Britain North America 2022 trade trip is organised by VisitBritain, the national tourism agency responsible for developing Britain’s visitor economy.

As the county’s official Destination Management Organisation (DMO), Cumbria Tourism will be among those promoting The Lake District, Cumbria as the ideal destination for American and Canadian travellers.

The strong contingent of businesses involved includes English Heritage, Honister Slate Mine, Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, Mountain Goat Tours, Muncaster Castle & Gardens, The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, Windermere Lake Cruises and Wordsworth Grasmere.

Accommodation providers taking part include Classic Lodges Hotels, English Lakes Hotels, Lake District Country Hotels and Langdale Leisure.

Funding from the Department of International Trade’s Internationalisation Fund, which supports those businesses ready to undertake international activity, has enabled businesses to deliver activity such as attending the event to help support critical international recovery.

Prior to the global pandemic, the USA was a vital market for tourism in the UK. Approximately 5.4 million North American visitors (including Canadians) came to the UK in 2019, representing over 1 in every 10 international arrivals. The US accounted for 15% of spend by international visitors spending £4.18 billion in 2019.

Francine Bult, Sales and Marketing Executive with Cumbria Tourism, will be part of the delegation. She says: “It’s fantastic to see such a strong contingent from Cumbria attending and the event will help all involved work together effectively for maximum impact. It will be great to meet travel operators face to face once again and develop important business links.

“Before the pandemic, 14% of visitors to Cumbria were from overseas. With two internationally recognised World Heritage Statuses, that is a trend set to increase in coming years. We will be working side by side with all these top-class Cumbrian businesses to cement the county’s reputation as a world-class visitor experience.”

Jennifer Cormack, Sales and Marketing Director for Windermere Lake Cruises will also be part of the delegation. “After all the disruption to travel caused by the global pandemic, this trade mission offers a perfect chance to gain exposure to extremely valuable and potentially lucrative markets in the USA and Canada,” she says. “It will give our world class attractions direct access to extremely valuable markets which in turn will help develop the county’s vital visitor economy.”

Peter Frost-Pennington, from Muncaster Castle, says: “For many years Muncaster has worked hard to attract more American and Canadian visitors to this wonderful part of the world. It is an important market for us and we know they love our history and heritage. This trade mission will be the perfect opportunity to renew and strengthen our links with travel operators there and encourage more international visitors to come and experience the place Ruskin described as the gateway to Paradise.”

The Destination Britain North America trip will enable businesses to meet face-to-face with up to 60 key travel organisers across the US and Canada. It takes place in Washington DC from September 8-11.

With the new Prime Minister set to be confirmed next week, Cumbria’s Tourism leaders are calling for them to urgently address spiralling energy costs with concrete support for businesses facing uncapped bills this winter.

The Destination Management Organisation representing one of the UK’s best-known visitor destinations has been inundated with questions and concerns from tourism operators in recent days, highlighting the scale and breadth of the challenges they are facing over the coming months.

Cumbria Tourism says lobbying the new PM on the urgent issues facing the visitor economy will be a top priority, and its key asks for Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak will be to:

  1. Introduce an energy price cap for businesses
  2. Introduce an emergency VAT reduction
  3. Provide assistance for people who live in their business property, such as family-owned B&Bs, and currently pay residential council tax on top of business rates.

Cumbria Tourism’s specialist research team is also surveying tourism-related businesses through its new ‘business tracker’ survey to gather first-hand, up-to-date evidence to make Cumbria’s case with national decision-makers including the new Prime Minister, as well as industry bodies such as UK Hospitality and The Tourism Alliance.

Meanwhile, the organisation is urging operators to write directly to their local MPs to raise their concerns and amplify the message.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “As business energy prices aren’t currently capped in the same way as domestic prices, there is real alarm among tourism businesses about what the winter months will hold. During Covid the Government provided critical support and whoever takes charge as the new Prime Minister needs to take immediate action to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences for the visitor economy.

“Energy use is already the second highest cost after wages for most tourism and hospitality businesses – disproportionately high in comparison to small businesses in many other industry sectors. As we go into the traditionally quieter winter season, these operators are dealing not only with rocketing costs across the board, but also ongoing recruitment challenges, a fragile supply chain and falling consumer spend.

“If tourism and hospitality businesses have to close for winter, this will devastate Cumbria’s visitor economy and it will have knock-on effects on our economy for years to come. These issues cannot wait!”

Alan and Cheryl Leyland have operated Manesty Holiday Cottages – a small self-catering accommodation business in the Borrowdale Valley near Keswick – for the past 40 years.

Alan comments, “For the past months we have watched prices for renewals rise from 30p per kwh to 60p and more.  This week we signed up for prices well over 60p only to be told the next day that one of the two energy companies concerned had turned down the contracts and the second one had not confirmed either. 

“We were then informed by our energy broker that all suppliers had pulled their offers from their websites and that nothing could be done; that means we will revert to an emergency tariff from 7 November, perhaps as much as 50% over the ruling market rates at the time. The end result is that we cannot take advance booking for 2023 when one of our principal costs is completely unknown.”  

Meanwhile, Mark Vause owns 1863 Restaurant with Rooms on Ullswater, along with his wife Anne. He says, “Our current deal is at an average of 14p per KWH, giving us a bill of around £13,500 per year including VAT and Climate Levy. Our best new quote is at an average of 75p KWh giving us a bill of around £67,000 inc VAT and Climate Levy.

“Hospitality has a high percentage use of energy in comparison to most other small business and this scenario will be echoed around every hospitality business in the land leading to closures, lack of facilities and unemployment.”

Tourism-related businesses are being urged to complete Cumbria Tourism’s survey now and make their voices heard: www.cumbriatourism.org/who-we-are/resource-hub

Amid the growing energy crisis, rising inflation and skyrocketing costs, Cumbria Tourism has launched a new ‘business tracker’ survey to gather ‘real-time’ data from tourism operators about the issues facing them as they head into the challenging autumn and winter months.

Working alongside Cumbrian accountancy firm Lamont Pridmore, Cumbria’s official Destination Management Organisation has launched the in-depth business survey to better understand the key challenges facing businesses right now.

As well as providing first-hand, up-to-date evidence to inform destination marketing on behalf of the county, this crucial data will be used to make Cumbria’s case with national decision-makers and industry bodies including UK Hospitality and The Tourism Alliance.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “There are many challenges on the horizon for tourism businesses and this survey spans a wide range of questions, from the energy crisis and spiralling costs to recruitment issues, transport and staff housing.  It also explores forward bookings for the winter.

“We know businesses are worried, but this research will enable us to dig down deeper into the experiences of individual operators and emphatically prove that to key decision-makers. It just takes a few minutes to complete and every business who fill in the anonymous survey really is helping us provide concrete information we can take to the highest levels of government.

“Tourism and hospitality are vital for supporting local jobs and communities, and this type of data was vital for making Cumbria’s case for more support during the pandemic. Once again, it’s time for tourism businesses to make their voices heard!”

She adds, “Over the past two and half years, I’ve been blown away by tourism operators’ creativity, resilience and sheer tenacity to find new ways to diversify and develop. As well as highlighting problems, the survey is also a way for businesses to highlight new ideas, innovations and potential solutions to help us collectively – both as a county and an industry – to meet the undoubted challenges of the months ahead.”

Tourism-related businesses of all shapes and sizes are being urged to complete the survey now: www.cumbriatourism.org/who-we-are/resource-hub