One of Cumbria Tourism’s Strategic Partners and best-known attractions says as the school holidays approach, the county’s residents can help in the summer’s crucial efforts to get the local economy moving again.

As the tourism industry continues its phased reopening approach for businesses across the county, Windermere Lake Cruises has further outlined how it is working to ensure the health and safety of its passengers remains its top priority, with pre-planning and booking ahead becoming ‘the new normal’.

As one of the top ten most popular paid-for attractions in the whole of England, it catered for 1.61 million passenger journeys last year, before the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the temporary closure of all tourism-related businesses earlier this year.

Sales and Marketing Director, Jennifer Cormack, says, “Now, with all previously furloughed staff returning, services have been gradually re-introduced onto the lake in recent weeks, beginning with small self-drive boats, private hire of traditional wooden launches, and our fleet of larger ‘steamers’. Like so many of Cumbria’s tourism-related businesses, we have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to develop new systems and procedures and changed all of our products and services. Despite having no trading income since 20 March, we have made significant investment in new systems to future proof the business. As Cumbria’s biggest attraction, we have an important part to play in helping to “kickstart” the visitor economy which supports 65,000 jobs in Cumbria, the equivalent of more than 38,000 full time roles.

“We have had to essentially create a new business using existing assets. With restricted capacities, we have introduced new routes and new timetables to ensure that we can implement social distancing. Cleaning routines both onboard and at onshore facilities have also been reviewed, with extra measures in place to ensure surfaces like handles, railings and counters are regularly disinfected.

“With all cruises now operating on ‘circular’ routes, starting and ending at the same points with no stops at other piers, pre-booking online is essential as all seats are allocated in advance.

Whilst it has not been possible to reintroduce all of our usual services and offers, we do aspire to reintroduce our point to point sailings as early as August. However some of our routes and discount schemes will not be reintroduced until the 2021 season, and we want to thank our customers and local residents for their support, patience and understanding during this time.”

Nigel Wilkinson, Managing Director of Windermere Lake Cruises, says, “The safety of our passengers and staff has always been our top priority, a fact which has obviously taken on even more importance in recent months. We hope our new measures will ensure they can achieve exactly what they want from a cruise on Windermere: A Covid secure, enjoyable, relaxing experience with any concerns about health and safety quickly leaving their minds, so they can sit back, relax and enjoy the stunning views on England’s longest lake.”

While fewer seasonal staff than planned will be taken on this summer, the attraction’s efforts to future-proof the business has resulted in no redundancies of full-time workers being made, with every staff member returning to work this month for the first time since lockdown measures began in March.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “Since 4 July we are starting to see visitors return. Businesses have worked incredibly hard to put in the steps required to support safe visiting. We really need our local communities to get behind the industry by supporting local attractions whenever possible. The way local people responded by supporting other businesses in March, April, May and June was absolutely fantastic, and we need this strong showing of support to continue.

“Being such an important attraction here in Cumbria, many people will be looking to Windermere Lake Cruises as a great example of best practice. I know Nigel and his team have been working around the clock to make sure that sailings take place in the safest way possible. With so many people finally being able to enjoy a day out after the stresses of the last few months, this is yet another example of an attraction putting safety for residents, visitors and staff right at the top of their list.”

As the tourism and hospitality sector begins to re-open, Cumbria Tourism has paid tribute to the industry for the way it has supported communities over the last three months and the careful preparations it has made as they begin to be able to welcome visitors and customers once more.

Covid-19 has cost Cumbria’s tourism economy £1.6 billion so far this year, more than half the total value of last year’s total contribution, and there is a long road to recovery lying ahead for hundreds of businesses and the more than 65,000 people employed in the crucial sector.

Based on its visitor research the official destination management organisation has developed a campaign that encourages local people to back tourism businesses and welcomes our visitors to begin to return. The campaign highlights the extraordinary lengths businesses have gone to in order to ensure safe, positive and enjoyable visits – huge numbers have already signed-up to VisitEngland’s “We’re Good to Go” seal of approval scheme, which reflects the government guidance businesses must adhere to. Cumbria Tourism’s own research shows 78% of people would feel more confident visiting businesses with some sort of visual certification as Covid-secure.

Cumbria Tourism has featured on national and regional TV and radio in recent days to raise awareness of the need for visitors to “Know Before You Go”, spreading key messages about the need to plan-ahead. The organisation is also using the exposure to drive people to its new visitor website, visitlakedistrict.com which offers advice for planning ahead and things to do once here.

President of Cumbria Tourism, Eric Robson, says, “Cumbria’s economy is hugely reliant on visitors. The Government says now is the time to re-open businesses with the wellbeing of both visitors and residents a top priority. Over the last few months businesses have gone to extreme lengths to make important changes to support safe and enjoyable visitor experiences. The ‘new normal’ affects us all, and we have a collective responsibility to safeguard wellbeing and protect jobs. While many visitors may not return immediately, planning ahead and booking now will be a tremendous help, and of course we are also encouraging visitors to support other local businesses like smaller shops and post offices, for example, while they are here.

“In addition to accommodation, many attractions also now need to be pre-booked, while some have timed or staggered entry in place, so always check first. Cumbria Tourism is a not-for-profit organisation, so by booking via visitlakedistrict.com or directly with businesses, visitors from the local area and further afield will all be directly helping our economy to recover.

“The Lake District, Cumbria, is the perfect place to reflect, to reconnect, rediscover, recharge and to reinvigorate after a very difficult start to the year. There’s no escaping the fact that social distancing is likely to become a way of life for the foreseeable future though, so a joined-up approach with local authority partners, public health officials and businesses will be required for quite some time. With that in-mind, we are working hard to publicise the fact that Cumbria is open for business and good to go!

“As Cumbria Tourism, we represent the whole county and continue to urge our visitors to explore beyond the boundary of our famous Lake District and to support local businesses whenever possible. We have many areas much more off the beaten track to explore and open spaces to enjoy and will continue to use our ‘attract and disperse’ messaging to help people discover areas of our world class landscape they may never have seen before, along with attractions, experiences, activities and adventure, food and drink, heritage, arts, and culture.”

At the weekend, Cumbria Tourism teamed-up with local MPs to visit many of Cumbria’s attractions and accommodation providers, eateries and other venues to help bring additional attention and focus to the reopening of the sector. This week, Cumbria Tourism will also meet Tourism Minister, Neil Huddleston, thanks to support from Tim Farron MP.

“We will ensure we use this opportunity to leave the Minister in no doubt about the scale of the challenge and the urgent long term support package required”, Eric added.

The Prime Minister’s announcement that parts of the hospitality sector could re-open on 4th July undoubtedly brought a huge sigh of relief to landlords, restauranteurs and hoteliers. Not to mention their customers! But, in working through long lists of guidance about 2 metre distancing (or is it one metre plus?), making plans for the collection of customer data probably didn’t feature.

However, the Prime Minister’s announcement explained that hospitality businesses planning to re-open would be asked “to help NHS Test and Trace respond to any local outbreaks by collecting contact details from customers, as happens in other countries, and we will work with the sector to make this manageable”. The ICO, in recent guidance, reassures us that it doesn’t need to be complicated, saying businesses can just choose the process that best suits them. As with many aspects of COVID-19 related guidance, it looks as if a pragmatic approach will probably be best in following the ‘five simple steps’ suggested by the ICO to help ensure that data protection is not a barrier to recovery (see further below).

Who is covered by this guidance?

There is a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19 in premises where customers and visitors spend a longer time in one place and potentially come into close contact with other people outside of their household. To manage this risk, establishments in the following sectors, whether indoor or outdoor venues or mobile settings, should collect details and maintain records of staff, customers and visitors:

  • hospitality, including pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés
  • tourism and leisure, including hotels, museums, cinemas, zoos and theme parks
  • close contact services, including hairdressers, barbershops and tailors
  • facilities provided by local authorities, including town halls and civic centres for events, community centres, libraries and children’s centres
  • places of worship, including use for events and other community activities

The guidance applies to any establishment that provides an on-site service and to any events that take place on its premises. It does not apply where services are taken off site immediately – for example, a food or drink outlet which only provides takeaways. If a business offers a mixture of a sit-in and takeaway service, contact information only needs to be collected for customers who are dining in.

The guidance does not apply to drop-off deliveries made by suppliers or contractors.

What information are businesses being asked to collect?

Businesses are being asked to collect information about both staff and customers/visitors to their premises. They are being asked, where possible, to collect the following information:

For staff:

  • the names of staff who work at the premises;
  • a contact phone number for each member of staff; and
  • the dates and times that staff are at work.

For customers and visitors:

  • the name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person, then the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group and the number of people;
  • a contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people;
  • date of visit, arrival time and, where possible, departure time; and
  • if a customer will interact with only one member of staff (e.g. a hairdresser), the name of the assigned staff member should be recorded alongside the name of the customer.

The guidance states specifically that no additional data should be collected for supporting NHS Track and Trace.

How should the information be collected?

Many organisations that routinely take bookings already have systems for recording details about their customers and visitors – including restaurants, hotels, and hair salons. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, more organisations are planning to implement an ‘advanced booking only’ service to manage the numbers of people on the premises. The guidance anticipates that these booking systems will be able to serve as the source of the information that businesses are being asked to collect.

However, there is no requirement to collect information in any particular way: businesses are asked to collect the information in a way that is manageable for their own establishment. If not collected in advance, information should be collected at the point that visitors enter the premises, or at the point of service if impractical to do so at the entrance. It should be recorded digitally if possible, but a paper record is acceptable too.

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Recording both arrival and departure times (or estimated departure times) will help reduce the number of customers or staff needing to be contacted by NHS Test and Trace. The guidance notes, however, that recording departure times will not always be practicable.

What if someone does not wish to share their details, or provides incorrect information?

If a customer or visitor informs you that they do not want to provide their details, or do not want their details shared for the purposes of NHS Test and Trace, they can choose to opt out, and if they do so you should not share any information collected and used for booking purposes with NHS Test and Trace.

The guidance asks businesses to encourage customers and visitors to share their details – but there is (currently) no obligation on businesses to require this of customers – or on customers to provide it. The accuracy of any information provided will be the responsibility of the individual who provides it. There is no obligation on businesses to check or verify an individual’s identity for NHS Test and Trace purposes.

How long does the customer information need to be kept?

The guidance suggests that customer information collected to support NHS Track and Trace should be kept for 21 days. This reflects the incubation period for COVID-19 (which can be up to 14 days) and an additional 7 days to allow time for testing and tracing. After 21 days, this information should be securely disposed of or deleted. The usual requirements will apply when deleting or disposing of data – ie you must do so in a way that does not risk unintended access (e.g. shredding paper documents and ensuring permanent deletion of electronic files).

 

Records which are made and kept for other business purposes do not need to be disposed of after 21 days. The requirement to dispose of the data relates to a record that is created solely for the purpose of NHS Test and Trace. Bear in mind, however, the general principle of the GDPR which states that data should not be kept for longer than is necessary.

Is the GDPR relevant to collecting and holding this information?

Yes – any customer or visitor data you collect pursuant to the guidance is personal data (that is to say data that identifies a living individual) and must be handled in accordance with GDPR to protect the privacy of your staff, customers and visitors.

GDPR allows you to request contact information from your staff, customers and visitors and share it with NHS Test and Trace to help minimise the transmission of COVID-19 and support public health and safety. It is not necessary to seek consent from each person, but you should make clear why the information is being collected and what you intend to do with it.

For example, if you already collect this information for ordinary business purposes, you should make staff, customers and visitors aware that their contact information may now also be shared with NHS Test and Trace.

You do not have to inform every customer individually. You might, for example, display a notice at your premises or on your website setting out what the data will be used for and the circumstances in which it might be accessed by NHS Test and Trace. You may need to offer some people additional support in accessing or understanding this information – for example, if they have a visual impairment or cannot read English.

While consent is not required, the guidance recommends that consent is sought in sensitive settings such as places of worship and for any group meetings organised by political parties, trade unions, campaign or rights groups, other philosophical/religious groups or health support groups. This is because of the potentially sensitive nature of the data collected in these circumstances.

Personal data that is collected for NHS Test and Trace, which you would not collect in your usual course of business, must be used only to share with NHS Test and Trace. It must not be used for other purposes, including marketing, profiling, analysis or other purposes unrelated to contact tracing, or you will be in breach of the GDPR. You must not use the data in a way that is misleading or could cause an unjustified negative impact on people e.g. to discriminate against groups of individuals.

As is the case with all personal data collected, appropriate technical and security measures must be in place to protect customer contact information. These measures will vary depending on how you choose to hold this information, including whether it is collected in hard copy or electronically. Make sure that access to Test and Trace contact details are restricted to as few people as possible and that both electronic and manual records are kept secure.  Ensure that you share requested Test and Trace contact details through official channels (i.e. to official Test and Trace teams). Beware of potential fraudulent attempts from third parties posing as NHS Test and Trace. Ensure that you are sharing Test and Trace Information securely (e.g. an encrypted attachment to an email).

In addition, individuals must be enabled to exercise their data protection rights, such as the right of erasure or the right to rectification (where applicable).

How, in practice, hospitality businesses will comply with the GDPR when collecting visitor data for test and trace purposes will probably be different for each business. For some, the ask may not be a significant one. It might be that existing reservations software can be used, adapted or repurposed to store customer/visitor registers and add information about the dates and times of their visits. Some businesses may have existing Privacy Notices setting out how they use customer data for booking and marketing purposes. But for those smaller businesses that usually manage bookings in a physical calendar or those that don’t take bookings at all, being asked to communicate privacy information and collect potentially large volumes of visitor contact details and visit information may present additional headaches. However, information can be presented to visitors in many ways – for example adding the information to blackboards or A-frame menus, and drawing attention to this information when visitors arrive as well as when bookings are made online or on the phone.

As always, there is a balance to be achieved. Achieving gold star GDPR compliance will not be as high a priority for some as simply trying to keep their business viable. So, as we said at the beginning of this note, a pragmatic approach to compliance will be the way forward and a ‘one size fits all’ approach is just not possible.

What does the ICO say about this?

The ICO has produced both basic and more detailed guidance for businesses. Its ‘five simple steps’ approach to ensuring that data protection is not a barrier to recovery is as follows:

Ask for only what is needed

Be transparent with customers and visitors – say clearly what are you asking for and why

Carefully store their data

Don’t use data for other purposes

Erase data in line with government guidance

The more detailed guidance expands on these five simple steps. The guidance is available here: https://ico.org.uk/global/data-protection-and-coronavirus-information-hub/coronavirus-recovery-data-protection-advice-for-organisations/collecting-customer-and-visitor-details-for-contact-tracing/

The ICO continues to update its guidance on this and other coronavirus-related data protection issues on its dedicated web hub.

Questions?

Please contact Caroline Redhead or your usual Burnetts legal adviser.

As the tourism and hospitality sector begins to re-open this week, Cumbria Tourism has paid tribute to the industry for the way it has supported communities over the last three months and the careful preparations it has made as they begin to be able to welcome visitors and customers once more.

Covid-19 has cost Cumbria’s tourism economy £1.6 billion so far this year, more than half the total value of last year’s total contribution, and there is a long road to recovery lying ahead for hundreds of businesses and the more than 65,000 people employed in the crucial sector.

Based on its visitor research the official destination management organisation has developed a campaign that encourages local people to back tourism businesses and welcomes our visitors to begin to return. The campaign highlights the extraordinary lengths businesses have gone to in order to ensure safe, positive and enjoyable visits – huge numbers have already signed-up to VisitEngland’s “We’re Good to Go” seal of approval scheme, which reflects the government guidance businesses must adhere to. Cumbria Tourism’s own research shows 78% of people would feel more confident visiting businesses with some sort of visual certification as Covid-secure.

Cumbria Tourism has featured on national and regional TV and radio in recent days to raise awareness of the need for visitors to “Know Before You Go”, spreading key messages about the need to plan-ahead. The organisation is also using the exposure to drive people to its new visitor website, visitlakedistrict.com which offers advice for planning ahead and things to do once here.

President of Cumbria Tourism, Eric Robson, says, “Cumbria’s economy is hugely reliant on visitors. The Government says now is the time to re-open businesses with the wellbeing of both visitors and residents a top priority. Over the last few months businesses have gone to extreme lengths to make important changes to support safe and enjoyable visitor experiences. The ‘new normal’ affects us all, and we have a collective responsibility to safeguard wellbeing and protect jobs. While many visitors may not return immediately, planning ahead and booking now will be a tremendous help, and of course we are also encouraging visitors to support other local businesses like smaller shops and post offices, for example, while they are here.

“In addition to accommodation, many attractions also now need to be pre-booked, while some have timed or staggered entry in place, so always check first. Cumbria Tourism is a not-for-profit organisation, so by booking via visitlakedistrict.com or directly with businesses, visitors from the local area and further afield will all be directly helping our economy to recover.

“The Lake District, Cumbria, is the perfect place to reflect, to reconnect, rediscover, recharge and to reinvigorate after a very difficult start to the year. There’s no escaping the fact that social distancing is likely to become a way of life for the foreseeable future though, so a joined-up approach with local authority partners, public health officials and businesses will be required for quite some time. With that in-mind, we are working hard to publicise the fact that Cumbria is open for business and good to go!

“As Cumbria Tourism, we represent the whole county and continue to urge our visitors to explore beyond the boundary of our famous Lake District and to support local businesses whenever possible. We have many areas much more off the beaten track to explore and open spaces to enjoy and will continue to use our ‘attract and disperse’ messaging to help people discover areas of our world class landscape they may never have seen before, along with attractions, experiences, activities and adventure, food and drink, heritage, arts, and culture.”

At the weekend, Cumbria Tourism teamed-up with local MPs to visit many of Cumbria’s attractions and accommodation providers, eateries and other venues to help bring additional attention and focus to the reopening of the sector. This week, Cumbria Tourism will also meet Tourism Minister, Neil Huddleston, thanks to support from Tim Farron MP.

“We will ensure we use this opportunity to leave the Minister in no doubt about the scale of the challenge and the urgent long term support package required”, Eric added.

As ‘non-essential’ shops begin to re-open this week, one of Cumbria Tourism’s Strategic Partners, The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, reveals how customer demand drove, guided and inspired the 166-year-old business during the Covid-19 lockdown – and provides an excellent example of how shops will begin to move forward in the coming weeks.

Closing the shop to the public for the first time since Sarah Nelson invented Grasmere Gingerbread® in 1854 was an emotional moment for Joanne Hunter, co-director of the historic business. “Even during two world wars our famous green door remained open,” she reflects. “But closing for Covid-19 was not only a legal requirement but a moral imperative as people’s health must always be prioritised over the bottom line.”

Yet, when the ovens were switched off, Joanne momentarily feared how she – and the world-famous Cumbrian business – would endure lockdown. She need not have worried. “Not only did we immediately see an upsurge in mail order, but people were emailing and telephoning us from first thing in the morning to 10 o’clock at night,” she reveals.

Self-isolating at home, Joanne’s private office became a frenetic hub of activity. From it she wrote weekly e-newsletters, organised more than 200 parcels of complimentary Grasmere Gingerbread® to be sent to frontline NHS staff and carers, engaged other small Cumbrian suppliers by promoting their products online and even enjoyed chatting to celebrities sending Grasmere Gingerbread® to their friends.

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Moreover, lockdown reinforced the personal nature of the business. “Many older customers telephone in their orders,” says Joanne. “So we listened to their lockdown traumas and tried to offset any loneliness by having old-fashioned conversations. It’s not all about money. Equally, people – many from different countries – have enjoyed reminiscing about holidays in the Lake District. Ordering Grasmere Gingerbread® has helped them to relive happier times.”

Surviving Storm Desmond in 2015, which destroyed the A591 and partially isolated Grasmere for six months, was a learning experience. “Then, I put my head in my hands and often my thoughts would go around in circles,” she admits. “But whilst I was anxious about Covid-19, I prepared myself professionally and personally for what I knew was coming down the line. By being proactive I didn’t have much time to think negatively about the future.”

Meanwhile, in addition to handling staff furloughing, administration and bills, co-director Andrew Hunter anticipated and prepared for a ‘soft’ opening of the shop. He created a socially-distanced and sympathetically designed entry and exit route, instituted a new health & hygiene regime for staff, as well as providing PPE and plastic shielding at the shop counter itself. Initially, payment will be by card only although Andrew does not welcome a cashless society, concerned it may marginalise many people.

“At the shop it will be one customer in, one customer out, although ‘customer’ could be a family unit,” he explains. “I would never underplay how serious this pandemic is, but we are social animals and our instinct is to get back to some sort of communal ‘normality’, even if ‘that normality’ is different to before.”

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “Lockdown has brought with it many shifts in behaviours and attitudes including a greater appreciation of locally produced food. Grasmere Gingerbread is a great example of the resilience of Cumbrian businesses, and the measures it is putting in place to ensure a safe, enjoyable shopping experience is great to hear. The example shown by Joanne, Andrew and the team, is an inspiration to us all and shows that by working together, we can get Cumbria’s economy great again.”

More than a week-on from encouraging signals made by the prime minister, Cumbria Tourism is increasing its lobbying for the government to provide vital financial support for the county’s hospitality and tourism businesses to help them survive the coming winter.

A recent survey among the organisation’s 2,500 member businesses has found that whilst 78% are confident they will be able to survive the next three months, this falls to just under 50% when looking ahead over the next six months and plummets to just one third of businesses feeling confident of surviving the next two years.

Whilst most businesses are expecting to be able to open in some form from early July onwards, necessary social distancing restrictions and other Covid-19 considerations will mean the vast majority of businesses will have to reduce the number of visitors they can welcome and meet increased costs. For the summer months at least the current government support package offers some comfort but it is the uncertainty of what happens beyond October which is clearly a massive worry to businesses and of course the impact that might have on their ability to retain their staff long term.

Cumbria Tourism welcomed the announcement last week by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the Government were looking at packages to help the tourism industry over the winter period, but as yet the detail of what the support will look like has not been made available.

Cumbria Tourism says its survey results reflect just how key it is to provide that business clarity reassurance now and is calling on the Government to do so quickly.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “At the moment, around a third of businesses expect to fully reopen in early July, while others will partially reopen. While they are eager to welcome visitors back though, the average opening capacities of around 60%, based on the current two-metre social distancing ruling, will mean that for many businesses it will be difficult for them to make a profit. This is why it is absolutely crucial that financial support for the sector is forthcoming. Our survey also found that increased costs are a major worry for three quarters of businesses, with a fifth expecting to make redundancies or reduce staff wages.”

Lake District Hotel Association Chair, Cumbria Tourism member and General Manager of the Castle Green Hotel in Kendal Ben Mayou, says, “Our member hotels and attractions are working hard to reopen and capture at least some of the summer season. The introduction of flexible furlough is on face value a positive step but with the requirement for employers to contribute to this over the coming months we are already starting to see redundancies.

“It is essential that the government comes forward without delay to share their plans to support tourism businesses over the winter period and avoid further job losses. Owners need information and guidance as a matter of urgency to formulate battle plans to have any chance of surviving into 2021”

Gill Haigh continues, “It’s also important to recognise the impact that losing businesses from the hospitality sector will have on other businesses which benefit from tourism. It’s not just tourism operators who will lose-out if businesses fail, but this will affect the whole community and other businesses on a wider scale due to secondary spend dropping. This is clearly unsustainable, and we need to know more about the government’s plans as soon as possible which is why we’re applying more pressure than ever, on behalf of our members.”

An example of such a business is Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, who recently announced significant redundancies and the cancellation of their winter programme to ensure the producing house is able to reopen in 2021.  The venue has to generate 80% of its revenue from earned income, receiving just 20% from public subsidy and as such has been severely affected by the closure and lost income.

Liz Stevenson, Artistic Director and James Cobbold, Executive Director said, “We have added our voice to our industry’s calls on Government to consider specific support for theatres.  We must see further investment quickly and, like the hospitality industry, further clarity from the Government”.

Theatre by the Lake is a producing house of national importance, is one of the largest employers in Keswick and contributes significantly to the cultural offer of the region in attracting visitors, as well as serving its community of residents

As tourism businesses across Cumbria continue to navigate their way through the Covid-19 pandemic, one of Cumbria Tourism’s Strategic Partners is looking further into the future, highlighting how students on its industry-related apprenticeship courses could play a role in the recovery efforts in the months and years to come.

The University of Cumbria offers a flexible chartered manager degree apprenticeship in the visitor economy, the importance of which has taken on new meaning in 2020 since the effects of Coronavirus slashed the value of Cumbria’s tourism economy by an unprecedented 50%.

Principal Lecturer in Tourism Management, Dr Angela Anthonisz, says, “Degree apprenticeships such as this one will become vitally important as we slowly emerge from the devastating effects of the pandemic and interest has been high amongst people in hospitality supervisory roles across the region, particularly those looking to use this time to upskill and add value to their CV.

“We are working with hotels, pubs, campsites, visitor attractions and service providers across the region, with a fantastic team of industry trained professionals, not just academics, and we have also recently added Ruth Paisley to our team, who has joined us from the Marriott Hotel Group. We have been developing new postgraduate programmes for education and industry focused on management in the visitor economy, as well as working closely with the Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas.”

Apprenticeships allow students to combine on-the-job training whilst studying for a qualification and the University of Cumbria offers a wide range of higher-level apprenticeships across health, policing, business and tourism and the visitor economy.

Dr Anthonisz continues, “In Cumbria and the broader region, even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, there has been significant higher-level skills needs and lower than national average productivity levels to address. Of the 56,000 jobs which need to be filled by 2021, around 27,500 are expected to be at Level 4 – that’s a higher apprenticeship or NVQ, or above. Currently the county only has 28% of its working-age population qualified to this level. Looking ahead as the recovery from Covid-19’s effects continues, the university is keen to support growth across key areas and put a strong focus on addressing regional sector needs like in Cumbria, where tourism is the lifeblood of the county’s economy.”

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “When it comes to degree level apprenticeships of this kind, there’s really no better place for people to earn while they learn than here in Cumbria.

“With its Ambleside campus in the heart of The Lake District, we are really fortunate to have a university which understands the value of tourism to the county and its decision to launch these opportunities before Covid-19 struck, has turned-out to be a brilliantly useful move.

“Working closely with Cumbria Tourism and also the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, the university has a clear strategic focus to support its Skills Investment Plan, delivering a mix of provision designed to serve the region’s needs and meet the challenges which hundreds of local businesses face here, as well as countless more further afield”.

Further information is online, at www.cumbria.ac.uk/tourism/ or by calling Dr Anthonisz on 07484 673733.

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.

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 “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