Businesses in the Lake District are gearing up to face the influx of tourists that are about to descend as we enter the high season, with these findings confirming what is already known to anyone who is required to navigate the regions’ congested highways at this time of year.
Latest figures reveal that Cumbria’s tourism sector generated £3 billion for the county’s economy last year and supported 65,000 jobs – about 20% of Cumbria’s total employment.
These statistics come from the Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor, known as ‘STEAM’. STEAM is an annual assessment produced every year for the past 20 years on behalf of a partnership led by Cumbria Tourism, with support from Cumbria’s district councils, the Lake District National Park Authority, and Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
It would appear that the impact of Brexit, which is being keenly felt by those recruiting within the industry, has mercifully not deterred the crowds. Something of a relief to a county that is reliant upon tourism for 20% of its jobs by the current reckoning. The thorny issue of how Brexit will affect these matters aside, these figures are better than many feared, and perhaps signify that there’s no immediate cause to panic.
The figures are especially good news in the light of Prime Minister’s recent announcement on June 27th, heralding the UK’s first ever tourism sector deal. The initiative, which comes with the promise of continued investment in the tourism industry, and a pilot scheme for five new ‘Tourism Zones’, will also seek to address Broadband connectivity issues, and focus on developing digital skills amongst businesses within the tourism industry.
“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.”
Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh
Of course the cynical amongst us will recognise in this scheme something of a sink or swim mentality, given that our economy is increasingly reliant upon a tourism industry that has historically recruited heavily from EU migrants. It remains to be seen whether this initiative will encourage more Brits to join the rank and file of our hospitality industry. In the mean time, there is a lot of room for improvement within the sector with regard to work conditions, pay and plenty more besides.