Cumbria Tourism’s latest tourism business survey highlights uncertainty about labour shortages, skills, travel disruption and Brexit, BUT reveals optimism about new opportunities to grow tourism in the county.

As Cumbria’s official Destination Management Organisation, we have been carrying out regular surveys with tourism businesses every six months for more than 20 years.  This research provides a county-wide opportunity to monitor long-term trends and business performance, and analyse factors affecting business in a positive or negative way.  It then helps us to highlight the most significant concerns and challenges with both national and regional policy-makers.

This Autumn, for the first time, Cumbria Tourism’s Business Performance Survey has been carried out in conjunction with one of the North West’s leading firms of accountants, tax and business advisors, Lamont Pridmore.

The results cover this year’s main visitor season – the six-month period from March to September 2018 – as well as looking ahead into 2019. Alongside Brexit, they reveal that travel disruption and staffing were major issues of concern:

  • 40% report that disruption on the railways was damaging for the region.
  • 64% of businesses say they have a problem recruiting staff and almost half also report problems with retaining staff.

Other key findings include:

  • 76% of businesses reported returning customers as a positive factor over the past six months.
  • 73% of tourism businesses will either exceed or match their performance from 2017. However, this is 16% lower than the previous year.
  • 44% reported staycations as a big driver for growth.
  • 58% of businesses think that plans to open up flights from Carlisle Lake District Airport will have a positive effect on tourism
  • Cumbria’s most important overseas markets are: the USA, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and China.
  • 60% of businesses think Cumbria’s status as a World Heritage Site will have a positive effect.

The survey comes hot on the heels of new government plans to enter into an official negotiation with the tourism industry nationally for a ‘Tourism Sector Deal’, aimed at increasing productivity.  Cumbria Tourism has been lobbying for an official deal for some time and last week hosted VisitBritain colleagues to explore how this could work for Cumbria. The results of the Business Performance Survey will now also enable Cumbria Tourism – along with its partners – to keep the county at the forefront of high-profile discussions as details of the Tourism Sector Deal’ are finalised in 2019.

Gill Haigh, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism says, “This latest research demonstrates that 2018 has been a challenging year for the tourism industry. The significant rail disruption combined with the extreme weather – including the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ followed by the exceedingly hot weather in May and June – have taken their toll, and there is certainly evidence of visitors tightening their spending. At the same time, there have been increased costs for businesses.

 “The survey results also illustrate the significance of staffing and recruitment challenges and increasing concerns regarding the impact of Brexit. This is not completely unexpected, but shows that the visitor economy needs continued support to keep growing in value. The survey results give us the evidence base we need as an organisation to keep up the pressure on funding, support and future strategy at the highest levels and to focus our resources on the issues that matter most.”

Chief Executive of Lamont Pridmore, Graham Lamont, says, “This research is invaluable to ensure Cumbria Tourism can take an evidenced based approach to effecting change for the tourism industry at a national level, as well as developing their own activities to continue the growth of the visitor economy. Understandably, Brexit is causing concern and uncertainty among businesses but they too can use these research findings to inform their own decision making and future plans.  Lamont Pridmore is delighted to support the Business Performance Survey.”

Our comprehensive research function is one of our key activities which setss us apart as a Destination Management Organisation. As well as the Business Performance Survey, other regular analysis carried out by our research team includes monthly occupancy surveys, county-wide visitor surveys, regular analysis of accommodation stock and data collection from visitor attractions.

For more information on our research programme, contact Research Manager, Helen Tate:

For further information

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