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.”