Cumbria Tourism is welcoming the new package of financial measures announced by the Chancellor today to help protect jobs and improve cashflow for businesses, as the tourism and hospitality sector heads into the challenging winter period.

With four months of business already lost, significantly reduced capacity and spending down, the county’s official Destination Management Organisation (DMO) is pleased the Government has responded to both Cumbria Tourism and the wider industry’s pleas for continued intervention to help businesses through the continuing uncertainty and ever-evolving restrictions they are now facing.

Cumbria Tourism’s latest research, revealed last week, shows that business confidence levels have been plummeting and it has been urgently calling for this type of winter support package at the highest levels of government.

Gill Haigh, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, says, “The devil is in the detail, but we  are pleased that today’s statement acknowledges the very specific challenges for the tourism sector, given that businesses were unable to open for almost four months in the usually buoyant summer season and are now facing the longer-term impact of a £1.5billion loss to Cumbria’s tourism industry amid continuing restrictions and uncertainty.

 “Initial responses from our member businesses suggest the new measures should have a positive effect on cashflow for many tourism operators. The continued reduction in VAT will be particularly welcomed, there is good news for those who have taken out Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans and it’s great to see employers being actively supported to bring people back to work. We are certainly looking forward to hearing more detail about today’s announcement, particularly around the new successor loan scheme planned for January.

At the same time, we need to recognise that there are concerns it may be too late for some businesses, and some will continue to find it difficult to access the new measures and there is a question mark over what happens if there is another national lockdown. This is something we will be monitoring closely.

“Cumbria Tourism’s research team will be continuing its in-depth business tracker research over the coming months to ensure we have strong, up-to-date information about the impact of the new measures. We can then use this evidence to directly inform national decision-makers and make the strongest possible case for Cumbria if additional targeted support is needed further down the line.”

Latest government restrictions announced by the Prime Minister this afternoon will bring additional challenges for the tourism sector, according to the county’s official Destination Management Organisation, Cumbria Tourism.

Following almost four months of closures and a collective loss of £1.5billion in revenue from Cumbria’s tourism and hospitality industry, visitor spending is still significantly down and business have only just started to get moving again in recent weeks – on average at just 75% capacity of what they would normally be.

Reacting to the Prime Minister’s statement, the Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says: “The priority, of course, is keeping everyone safe. But with Boris Johnson warning that the latest restrictions could last another six months – alongside the imminent end of the furlough scheme – there are real concerns about the long-term negative impact for businesses as they head into the traditionally quieter winter months. We continue to urge the Government to listen to our calls for financial intervention to support the industry.

“Tourism businesses have already worked incredibly hard over the last couple of months to adapt, innovate and ensure they can provide COVID-safe environments, by taking a wide range of precautions to not only protect staff and customers, but also to provide a strong visitor experience. We know they will continue adapting and some of the new rules, for instance on face coverings, may actually provide additional reassurance for visitors.

“That said, we had previously been moving towards more relaxed measures for events, conferences and weddings, so it is disappointing that tighter restrictions are being enforced on the size of weddings.  Many venues have put a huge amount of time and effort into making weddings viable, so this will be a big blow for them.

“Even before these new restrictions were announced, our latest business tracker research showed that average spend is significantly down and business confidence is plummeting.

It is now clear that the tourism industry will continue to be impacted for many months to come and our renewed calls for financial support to help jobs, businesses and customers through the challenging winter period are more critical than ever.”

Following a question from Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron during this afternoon’s session in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister has agreed to arrange a meeting between Mr Farron, the relevant Minister and Cumbria Tourism to discuss a proposed package of support for the industry.

To help strengthen the case being highlighted at Westminster, businesses and customers alike are again being urged to sign the MP’s joint petition with Cumbria Tourism here, calling for urgent intervention to support the tourism industry.

Latest Cumbria Tourism research reveals that business confidence levels are plummeting as the industry heads towards winter – prompting renewed calls for a winter package to support the county’s tourism industry and save jobs.

This latest research follows a petition launched earlier this summer by Cumbria Tourism alongside Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, who represents the constituency with the highest density of tourism and hospitality businesses in Cumbria. The petition highlighted the growing need for greater financial support and has since received cross-Parliamentary backing from MPs both in Cumbria and country-wide, as well as the Lake District National Park, the Tourism Alliance and other visitor destinations across England.

More than 150 tourism-related businesses from across the county have taken part in Cumbria Tourism’s latest in-depth survey, carried out in conjunction with independent chartered accountants Lamont Pridmore. Almost half of respondents don’t feel confident that their business can survive the next six months, and nearly two-thirds don’t feel confident about their longer-term survival.

It also highlights that:

  • 10% of tourism businesses are still unable to reopen in a viable way
  • Average capacity per business is just 75% of what it would normally be
  • Average spend is significantly down
  • Staffing capacities are reduced and 43% of businesses are keeping some staff on furlough
  • 75% of businesses will not be recruiting – up from 50% a month ago
  • 23% of businesses plan redundancies, with management posts amongst the most common to go.

These results came before the Government’s latest Rule of Six announcement, which it is already impacting on bookings. Now, as we head into autumn and winter, and with the added complexities of evolving government restrictions, it is clear that the industry will continue to be impacted and will need to keep adapting. As a result, the organisation is now teaming up with Mr Farron – alongside fellow Cumbria MPs and the Lake District Hotel Association (LDHA) – to renew its plea for urgent Government intervention to support jobs, businesses and customers through the challenging winter months.

The collective ask from the Government includes:

  1. Protect Jobs:
  • Support to help fund hospitality tourism jobs, November 2020 – March 2021
  • Funding to support skills and business innovation, efficiency and development.
  1. Support Businesses:
  • Temporary extension of existing schemes
    • VAT rate extension – the UK has some of the highest visitor taxes in the world
    • Business rates holiday extension
    • Business mortgage holiday extension
    • Extension of business grant funding
    • Extension of licensing and planning relaxations to support COVID-safe trading and extend the season
  • Review Travel Package Regulations to help businesses work together to create holidays that appeal to visitors.
  • A consistent UK wide approach to under 12s in the Rule of 6 changes
  • Keep under constant review existing guidance and increase flexibility of group numbers when and where appropriate
  • Review structure and funding of strategic Destination Management Organisations and regionally devolved marketing budgets to strengthen local recovery.
  1. Support Customers
  • Reintroduce ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ type initiatives during the winter months.

 

Gill Haigh, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, comments, “As we head into the traditionally quieter autumn and winter months, and with the added uncertainty about the continuing impact of COVID-19, this new research shows precisely why this is such a critical time for our industry.  The closures between March and July wiped more than £1.5billion from the county’s economy and saw parts of Cumbria identified as the ‘England’s furlough capital’.

 “Although most businesses were able to start reopening and welcome back staycationers from 4 July onwards, the results show there has been no automatic bounce back. Even before last week’s announcement regarding the rule of six and the implications this has for the hospitality sector and its customers, business confidence was plummeting.

 “A number of crucial markets remain decimated, including international visitors, group travel, corporate, large parties, events and weddings. We had hoped to see some relaxation of corporate and possibly other restrictions, but this has now been paused. In July, serviced occupancy levels were on average just half of what they should be at one of the busiest times of the year.  We need continued Government intervention to support businesses and Cumbria Tourism will continue to make the county’s voice heard at the highest levels as we continue to call for urgent action.”

Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, adds, “We are of course very grateful for the support so far which has helped the majority of businesses. Sadly though, we have already lost a number of businesses and others cannot yet open and trade viably. Easter to October is when tourism businesses make the money that should see them through the winter. This year more than half that season was lost. Even after 4 July consumer confidence took time to return, staff and visitor safety has reduced capacity, reduced spend and increased costs, plus a number of markets cannot yet return.

 “Now, with the prospect of schemes such as furlough coming to an end, many are facing a real cliff edge. That is why we are renewing our calls for a package of winter support to protect jobs and help give the confidence businesses need to help them survive the winter months.”

Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, comments, “The support that the Government has provided through this crisis has been phenomenal and a lifeline for many businesses.  I am pleased that the Government has responded to our calls for targeted support for the Tourist and Hospitality Sectors such as the Discretionary Grants, the VAT reduction and the hugely successful Eat Out To Help Out Scheme.  Whilst I acknowledge that many of the schemes cannot continue, I am working with colleagues across the House to urge the Government to keep these sectors, which may be slower to recover, under review, with additional targeted government support provided if necessary to help them through to the next full season.”

Ben Mayou, Chairman of the Lake District Hotel Association, says, “Government initiatives such as furlough, grants, loans, VAT reductions and the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme have all been welcomed by the industry. Without them, many more jobs would have been lost.  But as the main season now recedes and we head towards winter – generally a loss-making time of year for the industry – business confidence is plummeting. With no way of making up the income lost and the furlough scheme due to end on 31 October, we agree with the findings from Cumbria Tourism’s research that business survival confidence has worsened and back calls for this package of continued support.”

Cumbria Tourism is welcoming the return of England’s largest festival of history and culture this week, with dozens of free events taking place across the county as part of the annual ‘Heritage Open Days’ initiative – many of which are being held online.

Nationwide, thousands of places across the country throw open their doors to celebrate their heritage, community, and history every year – giving visitors the chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences free of charge.

Established in 1994, this year’s programme runs until Sunday 20 September and for the first time will consist of both in-person and digital events from the comfort of their own homes.

This year’s theme is ‘Hidden Nature’, which offers an opportunity to discover the nature that exists on our doorsteps. Events include a virtual tour of Lancaster Canal’s northern reaches, a National Trust ranger-led walk at Loughrigg, a guided walk to the Stainton Aqueduct at Crooklands, tours of West Cumbria’s churches and many more.

Clare Huggonson from Sedbergh’s Farfield Mill says, “We are fortunate at Farfield Mill having lots of space, so visitors will find it easy to socially distance. However, we wanted to be able to share our heritage with everyone, so we now have our displays online for all to enjoy, with more details on our website.”

Carlisle Cathedral has reported high levels of enthusiasm, with people being given the chance to enter part of the building which is usually off-limits, with two tours already fully-booked. Sarah Cameron, Head of Heritage Learning, says, “It is exciting to see how we can adapt to the current climate and engage our audiences in our heritage once again. Through the tours, visitors will gain behind the scenes access to one of Carlisle Cathedral’s hidden gems, the Prior’s Room and its stunning Tudor painted ceiling. This space is not usually open to the public so we think this will be a really special event.”

Adam Bewley, the Cathedral’s Head of Visitor Services says, “We are thrilled to be able to offer exclusive tours of our amazing Prior’s Tower for Heritage Open Days. Since reopening the Cathedral after lockdown, we have seen our visitor number increase week after week, which shows there is a real interest from local people in the cathedral’s heritage. Although the Prior’s Tower tours were booked within a few days of becoming available, the Cathedral is open seven days a week and is always free to enter.”

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “Cumbria Tourism has always been a firm supporter of the festival, which celebrates our fantastic architecture and culture, offering free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission. The events fit perfectly with our work to encourage people to visit a new place or experience something for the first time while staying safe and adhering to the government’s latest social distancing measures.”

You can see Cumbria’s full listings here, and remember to book-ahead, directly with the organisers of each event before attending.

A new High Court ruling could be a positive step forward for some tourism businesses who were denied business interruption insurance at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Cumbria Tourism – the county’s official Destination Management Organisation (DMO).

Judges in a test case brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) yesterday ruled that some insurers should have paid out for losses caused by lockdown.

The test case used a sample of 21 different types of policy wording from eight different insurers. While the judgement is long and complex, it concludes that most – but not all – of the ‘disease clauses’ in the insurance policies considered do provide cover for businesses.

Earlier this summer Cumbria Tourism worked alongside partners including the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to proactively gather local case studies and evidence around business insurance. The research revealed that 75% of all tourism businesses were unable to make a claim, despite 93% having insurance cover for infectious diseases.

Therefore, this new ruling provides a glimmer of hope for tourism operators who felt their claims should have been considered by insurance companies.

Jim Walker, Chairman of Cumbria Tourism, says, “Cumbria Tourism has lobbied very hard to highlight this issue at a national level and I think this latest High Court ruling will be cautiously welcomed by those tourism operators who paid their business interruption insurance in good faith and feel they lost out at the beginning of the pandemic.

“We hope the judgement will help to resolve the uncertainty being faced by policyholders, but at the same time, it is likely to just be the start of a lengthy process and it is still unclear how many more policies it will ultimately affect. The FCA and defendant insurers are now considering exactly what the High Court means and we will certainly be keeping a close eye on this as it progresses.”

Keswick B&B Owner, Gary Lovatt, is the FSB’s national lead on the issue of business interruption insurance. He says, “This is a win for small businesses, but possibly only a partial win. There is still the possibility for either side in this case to go to the Supreme Court to appeal, but given that the High Court has very speedily given its judgement in this complex matter, we hope that insurance companies will not prolong the pain by taking this to appeal. Although the potential payments may be, in general, relatively small amounts, they could be fundamental to some businesses’ survival.”

What do David Hasselhoff, TV presenter Helen Skelton and actress Anna Friel all have in common?

They’re among just three of the high-profile names to contribute to a new Cumbria Tourism initiative which forms part of its Autumn and Winter Marketing Campaign to inspire visits to the Lake District, Cumbria.

Other familiar faces getting behind the new celebrity endorsement campaign range from TV personality and regular visitor Julia Bradbury, comedian Jon Richardson, and Olympic and Great North Swim competitor Cassie Patten, to homegrown Cumbrian heroes including mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington, Lord Melvyn Bragg and MasterChef 2019 winner Irini Tzortzoglou.

The initiative is part of Cumbria Tourism’s wider #theperfectplacetobe Recovery Marketing Campaign to help tourism and hospitality businesses affected by more than £1.5billion lost income following the impact of COVID-19. Following months of closure and just a few short weeks of summer trading, thousands of tourism jobs in the county are at risk, so the performance of the industry during the autumn and winter months will be all the more critical this year.

To help launch the campaign’s autumn activity and build on the momentum for staycations, Cumbria Tourism has called on an array of well-known faces across different walks of life – many of whom have strong Cumbrian connections – and invited them to show their love for this world-class destination by sharing their own personal messages.

The aim is simple: To share their favourite parts of the Lake District, Cumbria, and to inspire people to rediscover this diverse and spacious county during the traditionally quieter months for a well-served staycation. We are pleased to say our celebs have jumped at the chance to get behind Cumbria Tourism and the industry.

Locations featured alongside the messages from each celebrity include St Bees, Cartmel, the Solway Plain, Scafell Pike, Ullswater, Wastwater, Blencathra, Muncaster, Derwentwater, Kendal, Windermere, Catbells, Dodd Fell, Helvellyn and many more.

The celebrity messages will be shared with Cumbria Tourism’s social media audience of more than a quarter of a million people in the coming weeks, and each celebrity will also be asked to share them on their own channels to highlight the region as a great place to visit all-year round.

The full range of Cumbria Tourism’s celebrity endorsements will also be available on the region’s official tourism website, visitlakedistrict.com here, and feature in the 2021 Lake District, Cumbria, Holiday Guide. The Cumbria Tourism team will also be tagging participating celebrities into its posts and asking them to reshare with their social media audiences.

“We all know this is a special place but with so many well-known faces sharing that passion it’s great to hear their insights and genuine love or connection with the county,” says Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh.

“The messages have been a joy to read and we can’t wait to share them with our potential visitors, particularly those who missed their holidays here during lockdown. Our awe-inspiring landscape has so much to offer; not only some superb outdoor adventures, but also fantastic food, fascinating culture and heritage, and plenty of unique attractions and experiences.”

Another celebrity to add his name to the campaign is broadcaster Stuart Maconie, who says, “Last week for the first time in many months, I did two fell walks in Cumbria and I’ve been missing it so much. In fact, I hadn’t realised just how much I’d been missing it until I was out there again. Everything is there – the lakes are there, the shops, the pubs and the restaurants are there. Obviously, you may have to book ahead now things are a little different to normal, but Cumbria is open for businesses and is welcoming you back so it would be great to see you there.”

As the summer holidays draw to a close, Cumbria Tourism is calling on residents to continue their strong support for local attractions and the thousands of local people employed by the tourism sector by getting involved in this week’s #CumbriaAttractionsWeek.

Running until Sunday (September 6), the county’s official Destination Management Organisation is asking people to help raise the profile of the attractions they visit by posting photos of their day-out on social media, using the hashtag #CumbriaAttractionsWeek.

Designed to inspire residents to visit somewhere new and discover even more of what’s right on the doorstep, the initiative will be used to reaffirm how local people are just as integral to the strength of the county’s economy as visitors from further afield.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “We all enjoy visiting pubs, restaurants and cafes and it is common for us all to look around for ideas for a day-out close to where we live. By choosing to visit a local attraction, every resident will be playing a vital role in helping to protect 65,000 jobs, the economy and the way of life we all benefit from.

“The range of opportunities we have here is simply incredible. We have got wildlife attractions like Predator Experience and the Lake District Wildlife Park, to the birds of prey at Muncaster Castle and the Lake District Coast Aquarium. There are stunning gardens like those at Askham Hall, a chance to explore the arts at Tullie House or delve into Cumbria’s heritage at the Ruskin Museum, the Lakeland Motor Museum, Beacon Museum and The Senhouse Museum.

“Experiences range from mediation at Conishead Priory’s Manjushri temple, creating confectionary at The Chocolate Factory, blowing glass at Cumbria Crystal, or trying dry-stone walling. We have got train and boat rides and plenty of physical activities too, from golf at Carus Green, water sports at Low Wood, fell pony camping adventures, and swinging among the branches at Treetop Trek. The list really goes on and on.

“With so much on offer, Cumbria remains the perfect place to recharge, reconnect, reflect and rediscover with friends, family and support bubbles after such a strange and difficult first half of 2020. We thank local people for their support but do remind them to plan visits in advance and book ahead.”

Among the attractions to have felt the benefits of local support in recent weeks is Whinlatter Forest. Mark Holroyd, Head of Recreation and Communications for Forestry England, says, “In recent weeks we’ve seen a really encouraging rise in the number of cyclists and record numbers of people trying-out Go Ape, with 120 to 180 participants a day. Overall, visitor numbers are up 40% on this time last year and our average stay length is slightly up as well.”

Asia Connor, Sales Manager at tour operator Mountain Goat, says, “As a small local company we appreciate the support from both visitors and locals alike. We rely on locals throughout the shoulder months to book private hires and local services and appreciate their business. I believe this year we have shown how reliant we have become on visitors and international markets but here at Mountain Goat it has made us review our local market and make sure we are looking after them as well.”

Meanwhile, massive savings can be made on many local attractions by holders of Cumbria Tourism’s ‘MyCumbria’ card. Full details of all offers are online here.

Cumbria Tourism is leading the congratulations for two of the county’s top tourism businesses, who have both scooped special honours at VisitEngland’s Awards for Excellence.

The Quiet Site, Ullswater, took a silver award in the Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism category, while Haven Cottage in Ambleside was awarded bronze in the B&B and Guest House of the Year.

Both were previous award winners at the Cumbria Tourism Awards 2019 and made it through to represent the county nationally at last night’s virtual awards ceremony, hosted by TV personality Julia Bradbury.

The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, now in its thirty-first year, celebrate and champion innovation, quality and best practice across the industry.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “It has been – and continues to be – a challenging time for our tourism and hospitality industry, so it is fantastic to share some good news. We had a fantastic array of winners from last year’s Cumbria Tourism Awards and it is great to see two of them so prominently recognised in the national scheme.

 More than 65,500 jobs in Cumbria depend on our £3.1billion visitor economy and these awards are recognition of the hard work, commitment and innovation that goes into making tourism businesses genuinely world-class. We are all immensely proud of both the Quiet Site and Haven Cottage who have done a fabulous job of flying the flag for Cumbria on the national stage!”

Chris Hodgson from Haven Cottage, Ambleside said  “It’s not an over-exaggeration to say we were absolutely delighted to win both the Cumbria Tourism B&B and Guest House of the Year Award in 2019, and then to go on and represent Cumbria in the VisitEngland 2020 national finals. To win the Bronze Award for the whole country is a huge accolade that we honestly never expected.

 “As everybody knows, this year has been a really tough year for tourism, but like many others we have strived to give customers the best possible service and to help them enjoy their stay in the Lake District as much as they can. We are lucky to live and work here and want to showcase the area in a great way to our visitors. Receiving these awards gives us confidence that we must be doing something right and means we can plan for the future with more confidence.”

Daniel Holder from The Quiet Site, Ullswater, says, “This was the first year we have made it through to represent Cumbria in the national finals. The whole team gathered with a delicious curry last night to watch the virtual ceremony and were delighted that we were runner up. We have made good friends with the other two finalists and ideas have already been shared!”

Cumbria Tourism has teamed up with the county’s Lord Lieutenant and MPs in county-wide efforts to help local food and drink businesses get back up and running through the Government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.

Over the past 48 hours, Cumbria Tourism Board members have been out and about meeting local businesses who are offering discounts as part of the newly-launched ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ initiative.  They have been accompanied by Cumbria’s Lord Lieutenant Claire Hensman and MPs from across the county, to listen to their recent experiences about the impact of the pandemic and to help inspire customer confidence about eating out again.

Locations ranged from Coniston, Hawkshead, Keswick and Cockermouth, to Barrow and Ulverston, alongside Brampton, Carlisle and Workington.

Chairman of Cumbria Tourism, Jim Walker, has been among those visiting hospitality businesses. He says, “More than 65,500 jobs and livelihoods rely on Cumbria’s visitor economy, so we are hoping that ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ will provide a much-needed boost for hardworking tourism businesses, who have pulled out all the stops to ensure their establishments are COVID-secure and ready to welcome people back.

 “We thank everyone involved in the whistle-stop tours so far this week; the aim is not just to reassure and encourage people to eat out, but also to consider combining meals with day trips or overnight stays to the fantastic range of attractions and accommodation providers we have here on our doorsteps. By supporting local businesses through the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, residents across Cumbria really can show their practical support for our vital tourism industry.”

The Government’s new ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme runs on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August and enables people to get 50% off up to the value of £10 per person in any participating establishment.

Cumbria Tourism is promoting participating Cumbrian businesses on its visitor facing website www.visitlakedistrict.com and is recommending that customers contact their chosen establishments in advance to book ahead.

The Government has also launched a restaurant finder to enable diners to search for participating eateries within a 5 mile radius of a specific postcode.
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