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Cumbria Tourism’s latest ‘health check’ of tourism businesses reveals it’s been a strong visitor season for the county. At the same time, increasing costs, availability of staff and the potential impact of Brexit are all key concerns heading into 2018.

Cumbria Tourism’s business performance survey is carried out twice a year and aims to find out how the sector is performing. The latest version gave tourism businesses the chance to comment anonymously on the issues and trends affecting trade between April and September 2017.

The ‘health check’ reveals that the majority of business had a good season; 68% of businesses are level or up on profit, compared to 65% the same time 12 months ago. Meanwhile, more than half say visitor numbers are up compared to the same time last year.

Three quarters of those surveyed also feel confident about the coming months. However, there is no room for complacency, with many tourism operators raising ongoing concerns, including:

  • Increased costs
  • People spending less
  • Availability of suitable staff
  • Traffic and parking issues for visitors
  • Website commissions for online travel agencies
  • The potential impact of Brexit on operating costs, border controls and recruitment.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “Cumbria Tourism is the only organisation conducting tourism research on behalf of the county’s tourism sector and this invaluable insight enables us to continually refine and enhance our impact. Crucially, it allows us to lead and lobby on businesses’ behalf more effectively, by giving us first-hand evidence of the practical issues facing the tourism industry on a day-to-day basis.

“As the county’s official Destination Management Organisation, Cumbria Tourism is well connected with key influencers and will use every opportunity to highlight the issues that matter to businesses and to seek to influence policy-making in these areas. Concerns around labour supply, traffic issues, operating costs and commissions for online travel agencies have all been high on my agenda at recent high-level meetings with key decision-makers. That includes the Home Office, VisitBritain, and Heritage and Tourism Minister John Glen MP, as well as the county’s local authorities and decision makers.

“The findings will now also be shared with Cumbria Tourism’s partners, including the Local Enterprise Partnership, Chamber of Commerce, Lake District National Park and the county’s MPs, in order for them to use this evidence to support their own influencing and decision-making.”

The six-monthly ‘Tourism Business Health Check’ is just one area of regular research undertaken by Cumbria Tourism. Other analysis by the research team includes monthly occupancy surveys, county-wide visitor surveys, regular analysis of accommodation stock and data collection from Tourist Information Centres and visitor attractions.

For more information on Cumbria Tourism’s research programme, contact Research Manager, Helen Tate:


Thirty years ago to the day (7th December 1987), two ancient fortifications gained global recognition in the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Now an announcement from Heritage Minister, John Glen MP sees both those sites – Hadrian’s Wall and the Great Wall of China – sign an exciting new agreement to work together on research, education and tourism growth.

Cumbria Tourism is welcoming the move, which will see representatives from these two renowned World Heritage Sites working together to examine the challenges and opportunities of managing large and complex archaeological remains and to explore the potential tourism growth in both countries.

China is a key visitor market for Cumbria, with an increasing number of Chinese travellers drawn to internationally recognised sites such as Hadrian’s Wall and the neighbouring Lake District. This week Cumbria Tourism’s Managing Director Gill Haigh also joined a high-level delegation in central London to showcase the region’s appeal to Chinese visitors. The event included key influencers from VisitBritain and the Chinese National Tourism Administration, alongside Heritage Minister John Glen MP.

Mrs Haigh says, “As the county’s official Destination Management Organisation, Cumbria Tourism considers Hadrian’s Wall to be one of the most important tourism products we have, so we are thrilled about this unique collaboration with another globally iconic historic site.

Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of World Heritage Status, it’s an exciting time to be promoting this fantastic asset far and wide.

She adds, “We already work closely with VisitEngland, VisitBritain and partners across the wall and in the North East, as well as businesses throughout the north of the county, to market the Hadrian’s Wall area to a range of domestic and international markets. This week Cumbria Tourism was also invited to be part of a special event between UK and Chinese ministers; this was a great opportunity to forge face-to-face relationships at the highest level and to continue generating international interest in Cumbria as a visitor destination.”

2018 will provide even more reason for overseas visitors to head to Hadrian’s Wall. English Heritage are investing £1 million into new developments and exhibitions at Birdoswald Roman Fort, with the aim of bringing families the best Roman experience in the region. Meanwhile, the Sill, near Hexham, continues to make its mark as the UK’s National Landscape Discovery Centre.

To find out more about visiting Hadrian’s Wall and World Heritage Sites in Cumbria visit:

Winter Campaign Toolkit House Party

Cumbria Tourism – the county’s official Destination Management Organisation – is planning to emulate the 25 million reach achieved in last year’s winter marketing campaign with the launch of a FREE marketing toolkit to support its 2,500 member businesses through the winter months.

The toolkit comprises a wide range of marketing resources including striking imagery and seasonal itineraries for businesses to integrate within their own marketing, to promote themselves and Cumbria as an all-year-round visitor destination.

The toolkit is available to download as part of Cumbria Tourism’s Winter marketing campaign that runs until mid-March 2018, and supports the trade through to the crucial Easter holidays. The aim is to showcase the wide range of events and attractions people can enjoy throughout the winter, by sharing content, images and itineraries to inspire staycations and drum home the message that visitors are welcome at any time of year.

Early indicators show this year’s campaign is already performing particularly strongly with visitors to the winter section of up compared to the the same period last year.

PR successes continue to gather momentum with national travel reviews featuring in The Independent, Evening Standard, The Times and The Sunday Post Scotland promoting Cumbria as the ideal winter destination.

Gill Haigh, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism says: “We are committed to supporting our wonderful tourism businesses during the winter months. Cumbria Tourism is leading this bold high profile national reaching campaign which has real resonance with our target markets. Alongside this our free toolkit is specifically designed to provide practical advice and sharable content for businesses to use and add even more impact for themselves and Cumbria.”

For the second-year businesses are also able to be part of ‘LoveCumbria’, the winter rewards card for visitors. Businesses can put forward offers to the scheme or they can use the cards to encourage winter trade.

If you are interested in finding out more about the work Cumbria Tourism delivers to promote the destination and how to join as a member, please call 01539 822222 or visit


Cumbria Tourism is warning that potential Government plans to reduce the VAT threshold could have a damaging effect on small businesses.

Cumbria Tourism represents around 2,500 member businesses and is alarmed to read reports that the VAT threshold might be lowered. It’s feared such a move would negatively impact smaller business operators such as B&Bs and guesthouses by increasing costs, reducing competitiveness and adding unnecessary administration burden.

As the official Destination Management Organisation for the county’s £2.72 billion visitor economy, it is calling for the Government to maintain the current level of registration.

Board member Haydn Spedding is Cumbria Tourism’s small business representative. He says, “The reliance on the visitor economy in a rural county such as Cumbria, with a population of under half a million, is disproportionately significant. The majority of tourism related operators in the county are small businesses and therefore any uncertainty of negative changes to VAT thresholds would have an impact on the economy as a whole.”

Haydn adds, “A recent Cumbria Tourism Business Performance Survey revealed that 60% of respondents are already concerned about increased costs. This is coupled with other challenges facing the sector including online travel agencies, staff availability and the concerns over Brexit and its potential impact on operating costs, border controls and recruitment. Any further changes that impact on costs and profit will undoubtedly force a number of small business owners out of business.”

Cumbria Tourism has called for the support of The Tourism Alliance to help lobby the Government on the issue and is also requesting that the flat rate for VAT continues to increase with inflation.

Ian Stephens

Cumbria Tourism is paying tribute its former Managing Director, Ian Stephens, after he was presented with a special ‘Lifetime Contribution to Cumbria’ award at the In-Cumbria Business Awards 2017.

This prestigious accolade is given to someone who has had a significant and positive impact on the Cumbrian business community over a period of years.

Ian stepped down from his role at Cumbria Tourism this summer, after working in the tourism and leisure sector for almost 30 years in a number of operational and leadership roles. He became Chief Executive of Cumbria Tourism in 2005, and was formerly the organisation’s Deputy Chief Executive and Operations Director.

During his time at Cumbria Tourism, he played a pivotal role in various marketing campaigns such as The Place to Be, Taste Cumbria and Adventure Capital. He was also heavily involved in crisis management around issues such as Foot and Mouth recovery and flood recovery.

Cumbria Tourism’s current Managing Director, Gill Haigh, says, “We are all so proud of Ian and thank him for all he has given and continues to give Cumbria Tourism, the tourism sector and the county. Ian has created a lasting legacy and the team here are CT are committed to ensuring we build on this good work and continue to drive forward our vital £2.72billion visitor economy.”

Notes to Editors:
Cumbria Tourism is the county’s official Destination Management Organisation and is at the heart of the Cumbria Visitor Economy. It is also the largest membership organisation in Cumbria with more than 2,500 members. In 2016, 45 million people visited Cumbria, contributing more than £2.72 billion to the local economy and supporting around 62,000 jobs.

For more information about visiting the Lake District, Cumbria, visit:
To find out more about the work of Cumbria Tourism, visit

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The latest plans for Carlisle Airport, hot-off-the-press sector performance data, expert advice for businesses wanting to make the most of World Heritage Status and details on funded tourism apprenticeships – just some of the headline topics at Cumbria Tourism’s Members’ Meeting this Thursday 9 November 2017.

This key event in the county’s tourism sector calendar will be held at Carus Green Golf Club and is open to Cumbria Tourism’s 2,500 member businesses. It will also feature a ‘Question Time’ style session with tourism experts focussing on: ‘Maximising opportunities for the visitor economy’.

As the county’s official Destination Management Organisation, Cumbria Tourism’s event brings members together to network and discuss topical issues, hear insights into major developments within the county, as well as details on marketing opportunities available to the tourism industry. This week’s event will be the inaugural meeting with new Managing Director Gill Haigh at the helm, and she will be outlining her observations and thoughts on future priorities and opportunities for Cumbria Tourism and the sector.

She will be joined by guest speakers Kate Willard (Stobart Group) and Martin Saxton (Stobart Air) to discuss the business benefits of Carlisle Airport’s upcoming expansion, and Paul Armstrong (University of Cumbria), who will outline opportunities for degree level apprenticeships and student placements.

The meeting will also feature an update on Cumbria Tourism’s latest business survey which examined businesses’ perceptions of key issues including Brexit and the new Lake District World Heritage status.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says: “My first few weeks in the job have been extremely busy and productive and it says much for the high regard in which the organisation is held, and the central position it plays in promoting and supporting the industry. I have already met and been invited to meet with dozens of organisations, member businesses and individuals. I will be sharing my findings since starting the role, the significant achievements Cumbria Tourism has been making, and importantly, my thoughts on our future priorities and opportunities ahead”.

The event is supported by our corporate and supplier members, including Kashing, Cumberland Business, The Cocoabean Hawkshead, Bucket & Spade, Visit Kendal, Lakeland Radio, Sealy Beds, Northern Print Distribution and H & H Reeds Printers, as well as Cumbria Tourism’s own commercial services. Cumbria Tourism recently revealed plans to partner with the Lakes Hospitality Trade Show on 7 and 8 March 2018 and businesses can also find out more at the event.

If you are a current member and have not yet booked your place at the Members’ Meeting – or if you are not yet a member and are interested in joining Cumbria Tourism – please contact the team on 01539 822222 /

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Cumbria Tourism is today launching the Love Cumbria rewards card for visitors, to give them easy access to some of the special seasonal experiences they can enjoy during the winter months.

From now until mid-March visitors to the Lake District, Cumbria can take advantage of over 40 exclusive winter warming offers to a host of quality attractions, restaurants and seasonal treats making it the ‘must have’ holiday accessory of the season. The card can either be bought online or at a participating outlet around the county.

The Love Cumbria card includes ‘2 for 1s’ and up to 25% off entrance to popular attractions, cafes and restaurants. For just £10, the card gives 2 people easy access to the offers for a 2 week period from the date of arrival in the Lake District, Cumbria.

So whether you fancy dining out for two, flying through the trees on a zip-wire adventure or exploring an historic arts and crafts house oozing with history, there will be plenty of special seasonal treats in store for all.

Sue Clarke, Sales & Marketing Manager at Cumbria Tourism, says,

“We are delighted to be welcoming back The Love Cumbria Winter Rewards Card for a second winter season. We were overwhelmed with how well last year’s inaugural winter marketing campaign was received by our visitors, and look forward to making this winter even more special for everyone who is planning a cosy break away. Remember a Love Cumbria Card really is the ‘must have’ holiday accessory of the year and we have a host of fantastic offers to take advantage of across the whole of our stunning county.

Participating businesses include: Gilpin Spice, The Cliffhanger Rooms, Senhouse Roman Museum, Lanercost Priory and Keswick Climbing Wall to name just a few.

Find your reason to love Cumbria this winter by visiting and buy your card HERE

Keep up to date with everything Love Cumbria by following the Facebook and Twitter pages.

Latest figures from Cumbria Tourism’s research team reveal that occupancy rates for the county’s self-catering properties are up 5% so far this year – and self-catering figures during 2017’s peak holiday season were the highest for almost a decade.

It’s been a strong year so far, with bookings for Cumbria’s self-catering units up 5% overall (January-September 2017) compared to the first 9 months of last year.

In August, self-catering occupancy reached 87%. Traditionally the busiest month of the year for the county’s £2.72billion tourism industry, this was the best-performing August since 2008.

Research Manager for Cumbria Tourism, Helen Tate, says, “Building on a strong performance in 2016, these are another positive set of figures for Cumbria’s visitor economy for the year to date.

“The national uncertainty about the impact of Brexit and the trend towards staycations are key factors in more people choosing to holiday at home. Recent figures from the International Passenger Survey also reveal a 14% increase in visitors coming to the North West from overseas for the first six months of this year, which underlines how cost-effective it is for international visitors at the moment.

“Self-catering is certainly a flexible, convenient option for many domestic and overseas holiday-makers, giving them a range of unique opportunities to explore many lesser-known locations right across Cumbria.”

Family-run business Heart of the Lakes has more than 300 holiday cottages across the Lake District.

Chris Jackson, Partner of Heart of the Lakes says: “So far 2017 has been an extremely strong year for Heart of the Lakes and we have seen an increase in bookings on last year, as well as a strong growth in visitors to our website and engagement with our social media activity. What is even more promising is the forward projections for 2018 as at the moment we are substantially ahead of this time last year. This gives us confidence that the trend will continue and staycations will continue to grow.”

Meanwhile, Cumbria’s serviced accommodation, which includes hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs, was also up 1% in both August and September this year, compared to the same two months in 2016.

Monthly occupancy services are undertaken by Cumbria Tourism as part of its role as the county’s official Destination Management Organisation. To find out more about taking part, businesses can contact Research Manager, Helen Tate:

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Five accommodation providers across the county have been nationally recognised by Visit England for providing outstanding customer service.

Yewfield in Hawkshead, Lyzzick Hall Hotel in Keswick, The Homestead Lodge in Windermere, Blencowe Hall in Penrith and Brambleside in Allonby all received VisitEngland’s ROSE (Recognition of Service Excellence) Award for 2017 at the Independent Hotel Show in London yesterday.

The ROSE award is designed to showcase those establishments that provide the warmest of welcome and where the owners, managers and staff really know how to delight their customers, irrespective of their star rating, style or type of accommodation.

The winners were nominated by VisitEngland quality scheme assessors and selected from assessor comments and online feedback from overseas and domestic visitors.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh said: “It’s brilliant to see so many tourism businesses being recognised for quality accommodation and customer service in Cumbria, it’s this dedication that makes Cumbria a world-class destination to both domestic and international visitors.

“In 2016, more than 45 million people visited Cumbria and its businesses providing the best customer experience combined with our unique landscape and quality attractions that interest this number of visitors.”

To find out more about staying in Cumbria or to book accommodation visit