Following the General Election results, the county’s official Destination Management Organisation, Cumbria Tourism, is urging the Government to move forward with its promised Tourism Sector Deal.
It is also calling on all politicians to fully recognise the importance of Cumbria’s £3billion visitor economy for driving economic growth and increasing productivity.
That message is backed up by the results of Cumbria Tourism’s newly released Business Survey, which highlights continued rising costs, recruitment and staffing, and reduced consumer spending as key concerns for tourism businesses. It is Cumbria Tourism’s latest six-monthly ‘health check’ examining how the tourism sector has been performing and is carried out in association with Lamont Pridmore.
Cumbria Tourism’s research team asked targeted questions around skills, staff retention and environmental sustainability as part of the new survey. The aim was to better understand key challenges and opportunities – and in this new political landscape, it will also help to shape future priorities for an industry which supports almost 65,000 jobs across the county.
Key findings included:
- 62% of tourism businesses say their costs have gone up over the last six months.
- 52% of tourism businesses have already experienced negative impacts due to Brexit. The area of most concern is the impact on operating costs. On a scale of 1 to 10, (where 1 is not at all, and 10 is completely), most businesses rated their Brexit-readiness as between 6 and 7.
- 77% said recruitment of staff continues to be a problem and almost half (48%) also reported problems with retaining staff. Lack of suitable, affordable housing for staff is a significant issue for around 70% of tourism businesses. Lack of public transport is a problem for 66%, and travel to work distance is an issue for 61%.
- At the same time, tourism businesses are taking a range of measures to support their staff. For example, 83% offer flexible working arrangements, 62% invest in training, 51% try to limit unsociable shifts, and 42% provide accommodation.
- Sustainability and green credentials are increasingly important to consumers and tourism businesses are working to be more environmentally friendly. For instance, 89% are increasing their recycling practices, 86% are reducing their use of plastics and 69% are reducing food waste.
- Overall confidence levels have remained broadly similar over the last 18 months. 61% of tourism businesses feel confident “to some degree” about the next six months.
Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “It’s vital that the Government and Cumbria’s politicians recognise and support our £3billion tourism industry.
“The latest feedback from businesses highlights some positive signs, but there can be no doubt that these are challenging times as we head into 2020. As a county, we must collectively use this latest first-hand research to make the case for future investment, strategy and business support with key decision-makers. Amid concerns around the proposed post-Brexit £30,000 skills cap, issues around recruitment, retention and skills really are top priorities for urgent Government attention.
“Other key issues raised within the Business Survey will help to guide the direction of our day-to-day work as the county’s Destination Management Organisation. That includes the need for new product development, improved accessibility and inclusivity, and better digital connectivity. The research also backs up our ongoing work to market Cumbria as an all-year round destination, drawing on the international strength and reputation of the Lake District brand to attract staying visitors who want to discover and explore the county as a whole.”
She adds, “Not only will this latest research help to shape our own activity and strategy for the coming months, but this rich data is also vital for informing key partners including the Government, MPs, the county’s local authorities, the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and the Lake District National Park in their work on behalf of the tourism sector.”
Chief Executive of Lamont Pridmore, Graham Lamont, comments, “With Brexit looming on the horizon, challenging times are continuing for Cumbria’s tourism businesses and will definitely impact the sector as we head in 2020 and beyond.
“We are delighted to support Cumbria Tourism as a Strategic Partner, and in sponsoring this vital twice-yearly research study. Having a robust understanding of the needs, challenges and successes facing tourism businesses means Cumbria Tourism can continue to fight for the support and recognition from Government needed to ensure our tourism economy thrives.”
For further information on Cumbria Tourism’s research activity: www.cumbriatourism.org/research