Last week was English Tourism Week, normally a time of activities and events to celebrate the thousands of businesses that make up the tourism industry, but this year it was used to raise awareness of how to help secure the sector’s future.

Cumbria Tourism says as we enter June, the beginning of a recovery is becoming evident with the county’s economy as a whole beginning to open-up and many people starting to return to their jobs. In the coming months, the organisation expects to see new sectors opening up, including retail.

Considering the aims of English Tourism Week in previous years, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “This year of course things have been a little different, for the past few months our tourism industry has understandably been closed but with the consequential risk to thousands of jobs and businesses. So this year the focus was on recognising the importance of the sector to our place, our economies, communities, livelihoods, health and wellbeing and our spirit!”

The Government has set 4 July as the target date to begin reopening the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors and Cumbria Tourism is working closely with businesses as they make preparations now, so that when the time comes the industry can open up with strong safe tourism measures in place.

Gill Haigh continues, “As an industry we are committed to working together to help get Cumbria ready and our tourism economy back on track – in turn protecting jobs, the economy and the way of life we all benefit from. Putting people first is at the heart of business’ rigorous safety assessments and plans. There is an awful lot to factor in.

“Restaurants, for example, will see changes made in kitchens to ensure chefs remain two metres apart, further enabling visitor and staff safety. The way our visitors browse menus is likely to change, in many cases with personal electronic devices used rather than the traditional methods. Accommodation providers are factoring in social distancing, enhanced cleaning regimes, contactless check-in and check-out procedures too. Attractions similarly are working to ensure customer and employee safety. With people already allowed to visit outdoor areas like gardens and other land maintained for public use, businesses whose offer includes open green spaces are also taking steps to ensure they can open safely. Visitors too, will need to think differently. Planning visits in advance, checking and booking ahead, and thinking about travel arrangements as well as eating and drinking must all be considered.”

Nationally, a safe tourism kite mark is being rolled-out in the coming days, setting out the steps which businesses need to take, which business can then use as a further sign of reassurance for our communities and visitors.

 “We are very lucky to have a large rural location with many off the beaten track areas which makes social distancing easier”, Gill continues.

“With new, safe measures being prepared for car parks to further help limit social contact, this is the perfect place to recharge, reconnect, reflect and rediscover. The industry is flexible and able to adapt to any changes in government guidance, so we are constantly pushing hard at government level for updates.

“Perhaps one small positive of lockdown has been the unique opportunity to rediscover the beauty and value of what’s on our doorstep. Perhaps too often we choose to travel away for our holidays but over the last few months, as exercise restrictions relax and as we start to see parts of the industry reopen, now is the perfect time for us ‘locals’ to invite friends and family to holiday with us in the county, to reconnect, rediscover old experiences and explore new ones with fresh appreciation.

“By doing so, we will be not only guaranteeing ourselves an unforgettable holiday but we will collectively be supporting 65,000 local jobs, supporting our tourism businesses who, in turn, will ensure a fantastic cultural, food and drink and retail offer, and help underpin our communities and way of life too.”

Following the change in government restrictions regarding public opportunities for exercise, one of Cumbria Tourism’s Strategic Partners is working hard to ensure people can enjoy woodland areas like Grizedale and Whinlatter Forests, with a focus firmly fixed on the safety of both visitors and staff.

Forestry England says the nation’s forests have never been more important when it comes to supporting the health and wellbeing of the public, many of whom will have spent the last two months under lockdown as efforts to continue to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Mark Holroyd, Head of Recreation and Communications for Forestry England, says, “It’s never been more important for people to get outside and breathe the fresh, countryside air than it is now. While our forests and woodland areas are open, we are, for now, continuing to ask people to only visit if they are from the local area. This will change of course, and we certainly hope to be able to invite people from far and wide sooner rather than later.

“Forestry England has managed the nation’s forests for more than 100 years and sharing these spaces is our passion. Studies have found that just two hours of exercise in places like these have far-reaching physical and mental-health benefits, which the whole population certainly needs more than ever right now.”

Due to Government guidance, children’s play areas at Forestry England’s sites remain closed at this time, along with visitor information desks, cafés and bike hire shops.

Mark continues, “For those who can’t wait to visit, we have re-opened our car parks, toilets and trails at Whinlatter and Grizedale Forests to visitors who do decide to travel. By re-opening these facilities we hope to reduce the impact on communities and particularly see less parking in towns and villages and on verges. But if you can, please do try to hold on a little bit longer if you are travelling from further away to get here.

“As the visitor economy begins to open further we’ll be so happy to share all the experiences we have on-offer here, from mountain-bike trails to Go-Ape, sculpture trails including our Gruffalo-themed trail for the children, to our Park Run at Whinlatter, which we believe is the hilliest one in the country!

“These forests belong to the nation, and they will still be here when this unprecedented situation passes. All we ask in the meantime, is for everyone to do their bit to help save lives.”

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “Through continued and combined effort, we are all collectively supporting the recovery of the tourism industry. And whilst many businesses remain closed for now, visitors and residents can be assured that they are working very hard behind the scenes to put in place all the measures that will be necessary to enable us all to enjoy responsible tourism holidays here in the county as soon as possible. In the meantime it is great to see how Forestry England is able to provide some limited opening opportunities like this, to help enable people to experience a safe visit and I am certain this will be greatly enjoyed.”

Further information is online at www.forestryengland.uk/wellbeing

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent temporary closure of business premises across the region, Cumbria Tourism is working with one of its Strategic Partners to highlight the potential requirements surrounding Legionella.

Utility Consultancy, Inspired Energy, says owners and managers of businesses which currently lie vacant must investigate the rules and advice surrounding Legionella and stagnant water. The Legionnaires’ disease Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) recommends that all rarely-used, or disused hot and cold outlets like taps, showers and toilets, should be opened and left to run through for five-minutes to flush the whole water system.

Chris Tarr, Director of Water Services at Inspired Energy, says, “This will allow hot water temperatures to reach their desired 60 degrees celsius and cold-water outlets to drop below 20 degrees celsius, avoiding water stagnation and protecting against Legionnaires. Legionella testing is not part of our offering, but we hope people find the advice useful.” Further information about the process can be found online at hse.gov.uk, here.

Eight working-weeks since lockdown measures were introduced across the UK, thousands of businesses have been desperately looking into the most effective way to cutting costs, in order to survive the Coronavirus crisis.

Chris continues, “There have been market code changes implemented by Ofwat which will permit water companies to convert temporarily closed properties into a ‘vacant’ category which will, for the course of the COVID-19, stop invoicing. Additionally, for those sites still open there are provisions in place to suspend disconnections, as well as extended payment terms.

“We recommend that readings are taken from the main Water Company supply meter for vacant properties, ideally once a week at the same time of the day. By documenting these, it will permit the recording and monitoring of usage during a period of reduced activity at your premises. This will assist with ensuring accurate billing if these can be subsequently provided to your water retailer.”

Inspired Energy also offers no-win no-fee water audits to help reduce further costs and potentially provide a cash injection from the recovery of overcharges. Chris says, “Our specialist team of analysts will forensically review your last six years of charges. This is a much deeper examination than standard validation, with a focus on benchmarking use and identifying any excess consumption or overcharges to make your water budget as cost effective as possible.”

“Further advice includes utilising the service’s bespoke water procurement service to secure optimal rates and best provider, which Inspired Energy can handle throughout the whole process. In some cases, automated meter reading devices are installed to help avoid unnecessary costs caused by leakage and excess consumption. We also have an in-house leak detection and repair service so that we can provide immediate solutions.”

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “As businesses try to navigate their way forward through this unprecedented situation, it’s great to work alongside organisations like Inspired Energy, which are working to help cut unnecessary costs for businesses when they need it most”.

For more information, call 01772 689 250, email partnerships@inspiredenergy.co.uk or visit www.inspired-referral.co.uk

As Cumbria Tourism welcomes the government’s announcement of a roadmap to the UK’s recovery from Covid-19, the organisation has teamed-up with nearly 100 businesses to create extra incentives for visitors to be welcomed back in the future.

While the vast majority of them remain closed at this time, many local attractions, including large and small accommodation providers and restaurants are working with the organisation to ensure that visitors will be warmly welcomed back when the time is right, by making their offering more accessible thanks to gift vouchers and discounts, via local company Regalo.

Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown measures in March, tourism contributed £3bn to Cumbria’s economy annually, supporting 65,000 jobs in the county, but by the end of this month alone the loss to the industry will be £1.5bn

Managing Director, Gill Haigh, says, “Our visitors have been so patient in staying away but we know they are also very loyal and looking forward to returning when the time is right, so this is a great way to not only reinforce the message that whilst we can’t welcome them yet, by purchasing a voucher now, they will be directly sustaining and supporting these businesses.

“At the same time I know that many of us wish are looking for gift ideas for family and friends gifts that offer something wonderful to look forward to at this testing time for all. This kind of support from our visitors sends a clear message that their thoughts are with thousands of people here, whose employment relies on our visitor economy. This will contribute towards keeping the county’s economy moving, while also helping to form part of our visitors’ dream itineraries.”

From great places to stay, eat and drink, to brilliant attractions to visit and activities to take part in, there is a voucher for everyone – with no less than 75 special offers available right now.

Account Director for Regalo, Harriet Russell, says, “Gift vouchers have always been an invaluable source of income for businesses. During the Covid-19 outbreak, their importance has been magnified as loyal customers have literally kept businesses afloat. The pandemic has changed the way people view the world and what they place value on, while supporting the local community and infrastructure has now taken precedence. When you consider that one in five voucher recipients go on to become a loyal customer, you can see what an important part they can play in building a loyal and sustainable customer base for the future.”

Those who buy a voucher also have the option to donate to Hospitality Action, a charity which offers support services to people who work in this vital industry.

Sheila Lake, of Lake Holiday Cottages is among the business owners to get involved and says, “During these uncertain times, while it is difficult for our guests to commit to a specific date for a visit, they still want something to look forward to. I was delighted when Cumbria Tourism introduced me to Harriet at Regalo, where vouchers can be purchased to use within an 18 month period. It was very easy to set up and means we can offer the flexibility our customers need.”

Voucher offers are online at www.visitlakedistrict.com, here. The simple process involves clicking to buy, downloading the voucher and presenting it upon arrival or when booking with participating businesses.

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s latest update on lockdown measures for the UK last night (10 May), Cumbria Tourism has welcomed the roadmap to recovery but for now is continuing to strongly urge people not to visit the county.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says: “We welcome the government’s planned ‘roadmap’ to recovery and Cumbria Tourism will continue its vigorous efforts to ensure businesses receive the ongoing government support that is absolutely critical. Our businesses are suffering greatly – by the end of this month the loss to Cumbria’s visitor economy will be £1.45bn – and this situation is not going to change in the short term. The government must work with us to safeguard jobs and the economy of the county.

“However, with Cumbria continuing to have one of the highest incidences of Coronavirus per head of population and a high number of older residents, the safety of local residents must take absolute top priority, along with a collective responsibility to help protect Cumbria’s NHS workers.

 “We were genuinely surprised by the government announcement regarding travel to destinations for exercise and whilst we await further detail and clarity on this announcement today, and we look forward to seeing our visitors return when the time is right, for now our tourism businesses remain closed and Cumbria Tourism asks for everyone to continue to remain at home.

“At the same time we express our sincere gratitude and thanks to everyone for their resolve and doing the right thing – businesses and visitors. Your continued support remains critical.”

How can having too many staff be one of our biggest challenges now?

Never in my career of working with the tourism industry did I think I would be helping so many hospitality and tourism businesses reduce their staffing levels.  As an independent HR Advisor I don’t just work with hospitality and tourism any more, but having completed my HND in Hotel Management in 1989 I worked in tourism up until 2011.  I finally moved on from my role as Industry Services Director at Cumbria Tourism to set up my own HR & Training business (People Junction), but I am still absolutely passionate about the industry and its success. It’s in my blood!

 

Staffing shortages

For years we have worked hard to promote the industry to school leavers, job seekers and the semi-retired encouraging them to join the industry. Despite all our efforts we never quite had enough staff and almost all the time we would be recruiting for at least one position in our businesses.  Our biggest success has been attracting and adopting our overseas workers, welcoming them into our giant tourism family.  Only up until recently we were lobbying the Government to ensure the immigration policy didn’t restrict our industry from recruiting from overseas.

 

Closed for business

Then the weekend of March 20th saw all of our businesses close just like that to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.  We also learned a new word in March – Furlough – what a strange word, but it has been a godsend to many businesses employing staff.  It meant we could avoid unpaid lay off or redundancies and everything would be ok, wouldn’t it?  We didn’t expect Government to be so generous with their 80% contribution and for so long – but unfortunately it still isn’t enough for our industry and the impact of Coronavirus will mean many jobs in the industry will be lost in the coming months.

 

Our biggest asset

Our staff are our biggest asset and there will be a time in the future when we need them (and more) to come back and work for us.  The staycation will be strong and we need to be ready to show our brilliant hospitality off to our guests once again.  So, we need to look after our most important asset understanding that everyone is going through a tough time at the moment.

 

Keep in touch with your staff

With technology providing so many ways to keep in touch with staff, it’s important to let them know they haven’t been forgotten just because they aren’t in the business.  Drop them a line on email, send them a text, set up a group on WhatsApp or pick up the phone to check in with them and make sure they are ok.  Because they are furloughed and can’t work doesn’t mean you can’t contact them.  There is lots of great stuff happening and I love that Lakes Distillery sent all their staff a Pink Grapefruit Gin this week just in time for the Bank Holiday VE Day celebrations.  A client I work with shares a video message from their CEO each week with an update of how things are going, and team get togethers are taking place on Zoom everywhere.

 

To train or not to train?

You can ask your staff to complete training whilst furloughed and there is plenty of free online training on offer right now.  Check out UK Hospitality’s training platform HERE  or take a look HERE for further free training.

 

Holidays

Staff on Furlough will still accrue annual leave.  You can ask staff to take holidays during furlough as long as you top up their salary to 100% and you give them double the notice, so for one weeks holiday you would need to give them two week’s notice.  It could help you manage holiday requests when staff do return, it will save you money in the long run, but you also need to consider that the staff can’t really do anything whilst on holiday in lockdown so try and keep it to a minimum.

 

Health and wellbeing

These are such strange times, by the very nature of the jobs we do, we are a group of people that (in the main) like people and now we are told we should avoid them!  It’s hard and brings so many personal challenges with it.  Caring for our employees is important and finding resources to support them is key.  It could be particularly difficult for those living in staff accommodation at the moment, confined to a small room.  There are online mental health training courses that you or your line managers could do to help spot the signs more quickly and understand what to do, as well as lots of online support for individuals. Click HERE for more information.

 

Acknowledging those that are still working for us

It’s ironic – we’ve had some of the best weather we could have hoped for during lockdown and this has undoubtedly helped those that have been furloughed.  But we mustn’t forget those that are still coming into work for us each day keeping the business going whilst their colleagues are being paid 80 or100% of their salary to “enjoy the sunshine”.  We need to make sure we recognise this when they might have days wondering why they couldn’t be furloughed instead.

 

The not knowing

The hardest thing for us all is the not knowing – what will Boris’s announcement mean for us on Sunday?  When will we be reopening and what will this mean for our business and staff then?  It is almost certain that in most businesses staffing numbers will be reduced, but what are our options?  Will furlough help us retain more staff and if so, for how long?

It’s important that we follow employment legislation in relation to lay-off, short-time working and redundancy, just because staff have been furloughed it doesn’t mean we can send them a letter informing them that there is no job to return to.

When we bring staff back, we need to ensure we comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act providing a safe working environment for staff and customers – what will this look like and how will staff feel coming back to work?

 

My next blog will talk about the next steps, but if in the meantime you need a little help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Cath@peoplejunction.co.uk

07787411252

www.peoplejunction.co.uk

Cumbria Tourism has today welcomed the Government’s announcement of additional financial support for Bed and Breakfasts alongside other small hospitality and leisure businesses that have so far been falling through the cracks.

According to the latest information, local authorities are being asked to prioritise businesses that pay Council Tax rather than Business Rates. Additionally, authorities will be given the discretion to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need. This will be administered through the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants Fund (RHLGF)

There will be three levels of grant payments, with a maximum of £25,000. There will also be grants of £10,000 and authorities will also have discretion to make payments of any amount under £10,000. It will be for individual councils to adapt this approach to local circumstances and Cumbria Tourism will be liaising closely with all six of Cumbria’s local authorities to ensure this funding is directed to the businesses which need it the most.

Further details are scheduled to be announced next week but this appears to be a major boost for the hundreds of Bed and Breakfasts and small hospitality businesses across Cumbria which have suffered significantly due to the Coronavirus restriction measures but have so far been unable to access any support.

Responding to today’s news, Cumbria Tourism’s Managing Director, Gill Haigh, said: “Since the lockdown began Cumbria Tourism has dealt with over 1500 enquiries from businesses who have seen their livelihoods disappear overnight. Whilst the Chancellor has brought forward a wide range of welcome schemes which are helping many businesses with overheads, we have been deeply distressed by the plight of many of our members whose businesses contribute so hugely to the sector but who have found themselves outside the schemes through no fault of their own.

“This is particularly the case for our Bed and Breakfasts who had previously been advised to pay Council Tax rather than Business Rates. We have been working non-stop to support these businesses, gathering case studies, working with Government, using our influence with our MPs and partners and raising the issue across national, regional and local media and it is immensely encouraging to see this response today.

“We are grateful to our partners such as the Bed and Breakfast Association, the Tourism Alliance and UK Hospitality who have taken up our cause nationally. We await full details but on the face of it this additional funding appears to be the answer we have been fighting for. I can only imagine the relief it will bring to hundreds of businesses.

“We will share further information as soon as it is received.”

Cumbria’s main bus service operator says it is looking forward to working with Cumbria Tourism in the future to play its part in helping the local economy recover from devastating losses suffered as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Cumbria Tourism announced that by the end of May, the total revenue generated by tourism across Cumbria – supporting 65,000 jobs – is likely to be impacted by a loss of £1.45bn – almost half of the annual income generated by the sector.

When the time is right, hundreds of tourism and hospitality businesses are looking forward to warmly welcoming back visitors to Cumbria, with Cumbria Tourism working to raise awareness of sustainable transport methods in help visitors make the most of the scenery as they travel around the county.

In the meantime, one of the organisation’s Strategic Partners, Stagecoach, is operating a reduced timetable on many routes throughout Cumbria, to help commuters and residents who need make essential trips. Public safety remains a top priority, with all passengers asked to pay by contactless methods where possible, or with the exact amount in coins to avoid unnecessary handling of cash by its drivers.

Further help has also come for older passengers, with the company lifting restrictions on concessionary passes, making them valid for use before 9:30am in line with early supermarket hours for the vulnerable. Social distancing measures are being observed on every service too, with capacity reached at 50% of seats taken on each vehicle. Protective screens provide a physical barrier between passengers and drivers to help prevent transmission, with additional cleaning of key touchpoints also introduced.

Rob Jones, Managing Director of Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire says, “We’re operating a reduced winter service in Lakes at the moment, with the hopes that we can soon welcome back tourists when it is safe to do so and play our part in getting Cumbria back on its feet. We also hope to see increased bus travel in the longer term, helping to improve air quality and giving us a cleaner environment as a result of visitors using their cars less often.

“I am extremely proud of the way in way our team in the Cumbria & North Lancashire is pulling together to ensure that we can continue to deliver our services. They are key workers too and I would like to thank them for their continued support and resilience in these challenging times.”

Personal hand sanitiser has been provided for employees, with larger refill bottles available at depots. One driver comments, “I’m very proud that we’re playing a really big part in the community effort, with bus drivers and healthcare workers, all working together to help us get through this difficult time. The thanks that we’re getting from other key workers across the country is also helping us to get through this.”

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “Stagecoach has carried out extensive customer communications, reflecting Cumbria Tourism’s vital message asking people only to travel if necessary. Like Stagecoach, we look forward to being able to move ahead in the future and traveling by bus will help us to rebuild the local economy while also looking after the natural environment which makes The Lake District, Cumbria, a world class place to both live and visit.”

More than three weeks into lockdown, tourism businesses across Cumbria are being told the popularity of staycations will “surely rise”, with all businesses being urged to consider how well they are equipped for a possible rise in domestic customers.

Working with several strategic partners, Cumbria Tourism has been able to assist more than 1,000 separate enquiries from businesses seeking clarity on how to manage cashflow and ensure their speediest-possible recoveries.

Cumbria Tourism says their partners’ expertise in their respective sectors means the organisation is armed with the most up to date information and advice for its members. Among those partners is Penrith, Cockermouth and Carlisle-based law firm, Burnetts.

Burnetts Partner and Head of Commercial Property and Planning, Robbie Mather, says, “Yes, the short-term period is going to be tough, but allow yourself some positivity for the medium term. This is what this county has shown on numerous occasions over the past 20 years: The resilience to get back on its feet. While the loneliness and uncertainty are undeniably tough, we want to reassure you that this current climate will not last forever.

“For those that have not yet sought the assistance of the available schemes and initiatives designed to help or discussed the current climate with key advisors and stakeholders, it’s vital that they do so. It has been remarkable how many businesses in this sector have been creative and adapted to the current climate by taking their business to the consumer. We’ve seen this through the use of relaxed planning legislation to permit ‘click and collect’ of meals; virtual tours of attractions and accommodation; and other inventive cyber interactions.

“Now is an unexpected moment in time to re-evaluate business plans and decide how to execute the ideas when lockdown measures are lifted. They must ask, ‘what is unique about our business? Why should a consumer choose us? Try to make use of this downtime, and remember, being creative and adapting in these times will undoubtedly assist going forward. I have already had conversations with clients thinking about how they can extend the season. Think about ways you can diversify and extend your offering. A winter barbeque, anyone?

“What I have seen and heard over the past couple of weeks is that this is the kind of resilience and community spirt which will help see normality return. This ‘time-out’ period will have re-affirmed for many that being able to spend time with their loved ones is the number one priority. What better place to do this than in and around the Lake District?”

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, adds, “We are extremely grateful to Burnetts for the advice and support they are offering businesses, such as helpful initiatives relating to the Business Interruption Loan, Job Retention Scheme, rates support and the available grants. By working closely with CT and using their expertise in the sector to work with us to support businesses at this crucial time, we’re in the best possible position to build our recovery.”

Businesses which require any support throughout this period are advised to contact Robbie, on 01228 552222 or email rma@burnetts.co.uk