With tourism and hospitality businesses struggling to accommodate bookings due to mandatory self-isolation of staff, Cumbria’s official Destination Management Organisation (DMO) is calling for the Government to allow workers with negative COVID-19 test results to continue to work.

Alongside a severe ongoing recruitment crisis, with businesses operating at approximately 20% below their employment needs, the so-called ‘pingdemic’ is often causing staff bubbles to self-isolate at extreme short notice, often leading to postponements, cancellations and even temporary closures.

 “Now should be a time for celebration” says Jim Walker, Cumbria Tourism Chair. “It’s a glorious summer, the industry is permitted to open and visitors are desperate to enjoy our world-class hospitality. Instead, businesses have a constant fear of having to deal with a sudden staff shortage and the knock-on effects to productivity, customer satisfaction, reputation and morale.

 “As an industry we have worked hard to put the safety of staff, visitors and communities first through a wide range of Covid-secure practices, yet a single ping can take us back to square one. That’s why we’re calling on the Government to allow the industry to bring back double vaccinated workers following a negative test, and potentially single vaccinated workers following two negative results.”

This request is the latest in a comprehensive campaign lead by the DMO. Cumbria Tourism is working closely with industry leaders and Government representatives to help the industry recover, including a recent productive meeting with all five of the county’s Conservative MPs.

A lack of overseas staff due to international travel restrictions and recent immigration changes has also led to the DMO calling for a seasonal worker scheme and creation of a short-term working visa initiative to help the industry recover to a post Brexit world. With chef positions in particular demand Cumbria Tourism is also campaigning to recognise the profession as a shortage skilled occupation for immigration purposes.

“It’s ridiculous, and quite frankly insulting, to classify chefs and other hospitality workers as unskilled” continues Jim. “Cumbria is home to seven Michelin-starred restaurants, plus TripAdvisor’s 2021 Travellers’ Choice top restaurant in the world and that’s down to the dedication, skill and passion of our chefs, many of whom came here from abroad.”

Cumbria Tourism has been working hard to lessen the impact of the staffing crisis through a range of initiatives, including a targeted recruitment campaign highlighting Cumbria as the perfect place to live, work and play. The DMO is also working with transport providers to evaluate existing infrastructure and better connect staff with workplaces, but the underlying cause can only be addressed by decisive Government action.

“This is a national crisis, but one which is disproportionally affecting rural visitor economies” concludes Jim Walker. “We’re sticking to our pledge to support the industry, and businesses are bending over backwards to do their part – now it’s time for the Government to respond accordingly.”

As businesses prepare for a busy summer season, Cumbria’s official destination management organisation (DMO) is working to showcase the opportunities available within the industry.

Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and the county’s super-aging population have led to a perfect storm, with many businesses now looking to recruit from a shrinking pool of applicants. However, the industry is offering amazing opportunities for employees of all ages and backgrounds, and Cumbria Tourism is showcasing these through case study interviews with workers from across the county.

For those looking to start a career, a summer job offers the chance to develop new skills alongside earning money and making new friends. Joseph Varden is currently working at the Newby Bridge Hotel on everything from hot tub maintenance to gardening to housekeeping after completing his GCSE year.

“It’s hard work but it’s worth it. It’s very important for people my age I think to be making money because it means you have a bit more freedom when it comes to stuff like wanting to buy a car. It’s helped me boost confidence from meeting new people and also to make new friends with lots of other people of different ages.”

Hospitality is a truly meritocratic career path, evidenced by Joseph’s colleague Amylea Wilson who, at the age of just 23 has already risen to the position of Duty Manager. Alongside on the job experience, Amylea’s employer has invested in her training, supporting her through her first year of college and allowing her to study for a degree with the University of Cumbria whilst working.

“Employers really do value their staff” says Gill Haigh, Cumbria Tourism Managing Director, which is leading on the countywide campaign. “They’re prepared to support them to receive the training they need to provide the best possible service for our visitors, We work very closely with the University of Cumbria who are currently offering fantastic scholarship opportunities for their Tourism Management MBA – and with the university recently ranked the fifth best in the country for producing CEOs and MDs there are real opportunities for advancement”.

Cumbria’s tourism industry isn’t just investing in its youth, the sector also welcomes staff looking to relocate from outside the county. Leigha Dixon is Assistant Manager at BAHA in Bowness and originally from Preston.

“I’ve been in hospitality since I was 18 and decided to come to the Lake District to broaden my horizons within the industry – I’ve been here just over two years and I’ve not looked back.

 “A lot of venues offer staff accommodation so that was a really big help to start with. It really helped me socialise with people, meet people especially people our age. I lived there for about four months and then looked for my own place and have been in a shared house now for just over two years.

 “The work-life balance is really good – I do my contracted hours and I still have time for myself or to see family or exercise up the fells. In the Lake District it’s a lot more chilled, it’s not as rushed. I feel that when you’re walking down the streets people are a lot happier.”

“Joseph, Amylea and Leigha are just three examples of the huge variety of opportunities available” continues Gill Haigh. “Whether you’re looking to take that first step on the career path, develop your skills through experience and qualifications, or relocate for greater opportunities and a better work-life balance Cumbria is the perfect place to live, work and play.

“These inspiring case studies are just a part of our wider recruitment campaign, designed to showcase not only the vacancies available but also the benefits of living and working within some of the most beautiful landscapes in the county.”

Video interviews with Joseph, Amylea and Leigha, alongside others, are available to watch at www.cumbriatourism.org/recruitment.

Those looking for their next challenge can browse available vacancies at www.visitlakedistrict.com/jobs

 

07/07/21

Highways England has been confirmed as the latest organisation to become one of Cumbria Tourism’s official Strategic Partners.

Highways England is making a long-term commitment to the county’s tourism industry with the new ten-year agreement, joining a select group of influential tourism-related businesses who share Cumbria Tourism’s core values and desire to rebuild – and grow – the value of the county’s tourism economy.

The government company is responsible for operating, maintaining and improving the country’s motorways and major A roads – like the M6 and A590 in Cumbria – and is currently preparing to unveil a public consultation on £1bn improvements to the A66 between Penrith and Scotch Corner later this year.

The plan to finish dualling the 50-mile section of the A66 between the M6 in Cumbria and A1(M) in North Yorkshire is/will be one of the biggest ever construction projects ever undertaken in the North and will boost the economic prospects of the region, including the tourism sector.

The company has an office in Penrith, several maintenance and winter service depots along routes across the county and two ‘outstations’ along the M6 near Carlisle and Kendal from where its traffic officers patrol the motorway.

Project Director Lee Hillyard says: “We’re delighted to be joining Cumbria Tourism’s ‘team’ of strategic partners, in effect formalising our commitment to supporting the tourism economy of the county. The strategic road network is vital to connecting communities, commuters, businesses and of course visitors right across Cumbria.

We’ve recognised from the outset that the A66 across the Pennines is one of the most important cross-country trade routes anywhere in the UK and important to tourism in Cumbria and Tees Valley. Dualling the remaining single carriageway sections of the road will help transform cross-country journeys, supporting Northern Powerhouse aspirations for better, less-congested connections and economic prosperity and sustainability.”

Jim Walker, Chairman of Cumbria Tourism, comments, “We are proud to be one of the UK’s largest member Destination Management Organisations and our Strategic Partners are a core network of organisations who want to get behind us share their collective expertise to champion the delivery of effective destination marketing for the county.

 A safe and resilient transport network and infrastructure is fundamentally important to our £3.1billion tourism economy and it is fantastic to welcome Highways England on board as a Strategic Partner. We look forward to drawing on their experience and enthusiasm to help drive forward our world-class destination for the future and make it an even better place for those visiting and living in the area.”

 Highways England joins a core network of fifteen other Strategic Partners, who are all highly respected and regarded across the tourism and hospitality industry:

  • United Utilities (Cumbria Tourism patron)
  • Burnetts
  • The Cumberland
  • Forestry England
  • Grasmere Gingerbread
  • Energisave
  • co.uk
  • Lake District Estates
  • Lake District National Park
  • Lamont Pridmore
  • NFU Mutual
  • Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire
  • Thomson Hayton Winkley
  • University of Cumbria
  • Windermere Lake Cruises

29/06/21

Cumbria Tourism and the Lake District Hotels Association have been delighted by countrywide support for their industry recruitment campaign and are calling on even more businesses and partners to add their voice by calling for the Government to recognise the issues affecting the sector.

 Research by Cumbria Tourism has discovered that the recruitment challenge is a significant issue for 68% of businesses, a figure which has doubled in just a few weeks. With the industry supporting 65,000 pre-COVID jobs in Cumbria alone the sector is facing real difficulties just as the summer season is due to begin.

With Cumbria’s working population already limited by a super aging population, transport connectivity challenges and a lack of affordable housing, the impact of Brexit was always going to create staff shortages, but the Coronavirus pandemic has pushed this ongoing issue into outright crisis.

 “After 18 months of trying to survive, businesses had been excited to get back to doing what they do best and providing fantastic Covid safe experiences for all” says Cumbria Tourism MD Gill Haigh. “It’s been heart-breaking to watch them forced to reduce their services due to a staffing crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and immigration changes.

 Businesses are running out of options following months of lockdown and now should be the time for them to begin the recovery process by welcoming visitors from across the country. Instead, we are seeing hotels, restaurants, pubs and attractions forced to turn away paying customers, limit opening hours and in some cases close completely – all due to a lack of staff.”

To draw awareness to the issue Cumbria Tourism and the Lake District Hotels Association are asking businesses to contact their MPs with three simple asks:

  • To consider an immigration exemption for the industry, similar to the agricultural sector, to allow overseas workers to plug the skills shortage short-term.
  • To add the role of chef to the shortage list, recognising it as a skilled position that requires training and experience.
  • To dedicate Government resources to an industry recruitment drive, highlighting the wide range of available career options and dispelling negative myths.

With this issue affecting businesses nationwide both organisations are also working closely with other partners to ensure a strong, coordinated approach.

Ben Mayou, Chair of the Lake District Hotels Association, says “across our hotel association as a snapshot, we are collectively short of 270 employees of which 68 are chef positions across 19 businesses. These are all permanent positions and in addition, we are also looking for 50 seasonal employees. Never have we experienced such difficulties in recruiting staff.  In the current climate however, roles are simply not being filled placing even more pressure on the existing teams.”

James Mason, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, says “Tourism is a people industry. Businesses rely on staff to provide the top-level customer service we’re famed for and without a strong pool of front and back of house staff we’re operating with one hand tied behind our back before we even begin.”

“Put simply, if the sector doesn’t receive substantial support fast, we will see more businesses close” continues Gill Haigh.

“The industry is incredibly grateful for all the support received over the course of the pandemic, including the furlough scheme and business grants, but all this Government spending will go to waste if businesses are abandoned at this crucial stage.”

Further information on how to get involved in the campaign, as well as additional resources and advice on recruitment, can be found at www.cumbriatourism.org/recruitment. Those looking to begin or continue their career within the county’s tourism and hospitality sector and view current vacancies at www.visitlakedistrict.com/jobs.

 

28/06/21

As an urgent response to the acute staffing crisis now threatening the post-pandemic recovery of Cumbria’s visitor economy, Cumbria Tourism is stepping up its recruitment marketing campaign to bring fresh faces into the industry.

Latest figures from the county’s Destination Management Organisation reveal that 68% of businesses now say recruitment of staff is a significant problem, despite businesses taking steps such as increasing salaries and benefits, improving shift patterns and offering accommodation.

The impact of Brexit, staff moving on during the pandemic and many businesses hiring at the same time are among the key factors.

As part of #theperfectplacetobe campaign, Cumbria Tourism has already been promoting the county as ‘the perfect place’ not only to visit, but also as a more permanent base to build a life and career.

It’s now building on this momentum – and its well-established job vacancies page at visitlakedistrict.com – to help inspire both locals and people from further afield to take up tourism and hospitality jobs in the world-famous Lake District and wider Cumbria.

The campaign is focussed on three main groups: 16-18 year olds (school leavers, college leavers and gap year students), along with visitors from out of county looking for long-term lifestyle changes and other local audiences including the semi-retired and residents living in more urban areas who may not have considered jobs in the Lakes.

Key activity will include a range of digital and social media content, alongside a series of free webinars for businesses, media relations and high-level lobbying to bring wider attention to the issue.  There will also be a ‘toolkit’ for businesses including practical advice and marketing materials to help them actively support the campaign and, in turn, increase the number of people choosing the Lake District, Cumbria as #theperfectplacetowork.

Commenting on the campaign, Cumbria Tourism’s Managing Director Gill Haigh says, “The beauty of this sector is just how much diversity we have to offer, whether that’s what you do, where you do it and how you do it. Full time, part time, working front of house or behind the scenes, there are so many incredible career opportunities right here in this stunning county for people of all ages and backgrounds.

“We know there will be lots of students finishing university looking for work or a gap year experience. Where better than the Lake District Cumbria – with many businesses offering accommodation, good rates of pay, lots of additional perks. Plus you get to meet lots of new people, learn new skills, build your experience portfolio and live the dream that is having this stunning, exciting and invigorating world class backdrop on your doorstep.

 “We also know that the impact of the pandemic has left many people re-evaluating their work life-balance and where they live. The Lake District Cumbria offers that balance in bucketloads, with some absolutely brilliant jobs in tourism, leisure, culture, food and drink, outdoor education, as well as supporting professions such as marketing, HR, legal and finance. We will also seek to harness people’s post-pandemic mindset: to find their own space and maintain physical/mental balance both in and out of work.

She adds, “A common misconception is that this is a low paid sector with unsociable shifts. The truth is that there are not just great salaries but additional benefits and a whole range of flexible work patterns. My favourite thing about this sector is it doesn’t matter where you start. If you set your stall out and are good at what you do, the sky really is the limit.”

Chair of Lake District Hotel Association, Ben Mayou, adds, “Recruitment is currently a significant challenge across all the hotels and attractions in our association. There is a stigma attached to working in hospitality in that it’s just a stop gap until something better comes along. I challenge anybody to find an industry that offers the range of roles that can be found in a hotel environment along with the flexibility of shifts.

 “Even for those who don’t intend to work in the industry for their entire career the social skills that can be learnt are transferable into any sector. Having moved to the North West in 2003 as a Trainee Manager I am myself evidence that there are countless opportunities to develop a rewarding and successful career whilst making a home in this beautiful part of the world.”

Any Cumbria-based tourism and hospitality business can register their job vacancies on Cumbria Tourism’s FREE jobs listing by completing our form HERE.

 

18/06/21