The Government’s announcement of a new Tourism Sector Deal is a real game-changer, according to Cumbria Tourism.

The county’s official Destination Management Organisation (DMO) says Cumbria can now go ahead and bid to become a ‘Tourism Zone’ – potentially unlocking major investment and strategic policy support for the county’s tourism industry.

An official Tourism Sector Deal puts tourism at the top of the Government’s national policy agenda, with the ambition of driving economic growth and increasing productivity. A select number of newly-created ‘Tourism Zones’ across the country will also play a vital part in helping to improve skills and connectivity, as well as aiming to enhance the visitor experience and helping to extend the annual tourism season.

A competitive process will begin shortly to choose which destinations become ‘Tourism Zones’. There is already a joined-up, county-wide approach being developed by Cumbria Tourism, Cumbria County Council, the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP) and the Lake District National Park to secure the new status.

The news comes less than a day after Cumbria Tourism welcomed high-level speakers from both the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and VisitBritain to its Annual General Meeting (AGM) near Penrith. Last night also saw a special networking event for the keynote speakers with key partners and leading tourism operators.

 Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says,Make no mistake, this is a real game-changer. With tourism now worth £3billion to Cumbria’s economy, we have been lobbying vigorously for an official tourism Sector Deal for the past 18 months and firmly believe that Cumbria is the right location for a new Tourism Zone.

 “The Sector Deal focus is about increasing productivity, which fits perfectly with Cumbria Tourism’s existing strategy to grow the value of tourism through higher-spending visitors and to market the county as an all year round destination. It also complements our ongoing ‘attract and disperse’ policy, which draws on the strength of the Lake District brand to attract staying visitors who want to discover and explore the wider county.

 “Being a Tourism Zone would open up great opportunities to further develop the value of Cumbria’s tourism industry, as well as helping us to tackle some of the challenges businesses are facing – not least around skills and labour supply, travel and transport, housing and digital connectivity. Our focus now is working collaboratively with partners to put forward Cumbria’s case and to keep up the pressure on key national decision-makers.”

Nigel Wilkinson, Chair of Cumbria LEP’s Visitor Economy Sector Panel comments, “We very much welcome the announcement of the Tourism Sector Deal, which will support Cumbria LEP (CLEP) and our partners to deliver the growth ambition that we have outlined in our Local Industrial Strategy. We attract 47 million visits per year and are committed to growing the economic benefits from our tourism sector and extending the visitor experience to all parts of Cumbria, as we have an excellent offer in place. We particularly welcome the Tourism Zone pilots and believe that Cumbria is ideally placed to become one, given our recent growth and exceptional visitor offer.”

 Councillor David Southward, from Cumbria County Council, says, “We all recognise the value of the tourism sector to the Cumbrian economy.  A thriving visitor economy supports and underpins thriving communities and we therefore welcome the Government’s announcement on the Tourism Sector Deal.  We look forward to working with local partners in the development of proposals for a Tourism Zone.”

Steve Ratcliffe the Lake District National Park’s Director of Sustainable Development adds,Given the importance of the visitor economy to the Lake District and Cumbria we are delighted by the Sector Deal announcement. The Lake District National Park is a Park for all and we’ll continue to work towards ensuring it is accessible and that visitors can move around this UNESCO World Heritage Site sustainably. We are already committed to working with Cumbria Tourism, the Cumbria LEP and other partners in bidding for a Tourism Zone to cover the Lake District and Cumbria.”

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