Tourism businesses from across Cumbria have met with the Executive Director of Government Communications, Alex Aiken, at one of the county’s leading visitor attractions to highlight some of the key challenges and opportunities for the visitor economy.
The discussions at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery were coordinated by Cumbria Tourism in its role as the county’s Destination Management Organisation.
Mr Aiken was in Cumbria on a wider two-day visit to look at the impact of Covid-19, and economic recovery, and how the Government’s Levelling up white paper can support the area.
Cumbria Tourism’s Managing Director Gill Haigh led the meeting, which brought together businesses representing different parts of the tourism sector and county, alongside public sector partners including Cumbria County Council, Carlisle City Council and the Lake District National Park.
She said: “The impact of COVID-19 had a catastrophic impact for the county’s tourism industry in 2020, wiping £2billion off the value of our visitor economy. Whilst Government support has been hugely welcomed, significant challenges remain – not least around recruitment, which is now potentially holding back future growth. Combined with rising costs and supply issues, many tourism and hospitality businesses continue to struggle.
“At the same time, there is also huge opportunity. Looking ahead, there is the chance to capitalise on the new ‘staycation’ experience, convert the ‘new’ visitors we have attracted over the past 18 months into repeat custom and increase short breaks out of season. Supporting the return of international visitors also bring new possibilities.
“Now is the time to seize the moment, invest and really take tourism seriously as an economic driver for the UK. I know all the businesses involved in the meeting have really valued the opportunity to highlight both the challenges and the opportunities ahead directly to a government official – and in the year we celebrate 1900 years of Hadrian’s Wall, Carlisle was a fantastic place to showcase some of the county’s very finest tourism assets.”
Alex Aiken added: “I was really excited to return to Cumbria after a gap caused by the Covid pandemic. I was last on holiday in Silloth in 2019. I also visited the area in the aftermath of the floods in 2016.
“It was fantastic to meet people working on the front line of public service and at the sharp end of getting tourists to Cumbria. It’s an appropriate time to visit as we come out of the pandemic and in the week that the Government published its levelling up white paper.”
Director at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Andrew Mackay, is also a member of Cumbria LEP’s (Local Enterprise Partnership) Tourism & Visitor Economy sub-committee.
He added: “We are delighted that Alex visited us in Carlisle – we are pleased that our county has a voice with government and is being given space to talk about important issues affecting our local economy. We are looking forward to working together to support Cumbria’s growth.”