The Government’s announcement that large sections of the hospitality and accommodation sector will soon be able to re-open for business has been warmly welcomed in Cumbria.
The visitor economy, which accounts for 22 per cent of jobs in Cumbria and up to 33 per cent in major tourism locations, has been particularly severely hit by the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that hotels, bed and breakfasts, holiday homes, campsites, caravan parks, boarding houses, pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen from Saturday, July 4.
That has come as a major boost, say Jo Lappin, Chair of Cumbria’s Business and Economic Response and Recovery Group (BERGG), and Nigel Wilkinson, Chair of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership’s Visitor Economy Sector Panel.
BERRG is part of the county’s Local Resilience Forum structure and is responsible for developing Cumbria’s economic response to COVID-19.
Mrs Lappin, who is Chief Executive of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP), said: “The unique structure of Cumbria’s economy has meant that COVID-19 has seriously affected a number of businesses, particularly in the visitor economy.
“We’re urging people in Cumbria to do their bit to support the county’s economy through these very testing times by thinking, visiting and spending local.
“Cumbria has so much to offer and explore, including two World Heritage Sites, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, more Michelin star restaurants than anywhere north of London, and fantastic arts, culture and heritage offers, with a host of excellent businesses and organisations that really do need our support.
“What better way to mark the emergence from the tightest constraints of lockdown than by visiting attractions or booking a staycation right here in our glorious part of the world?”
Mr Wilkinson, Managing Director of Windermere Lake Cruises, said: “The changes that the PM announced relating to July 4 are transformational for the whole of the sector.
“They are obviously hugely significant for our colleagues in the accommodation sector but the while of Cumbria’s visitor economy is inter-connected.
“Retail, food and beverage outlets and visitor attractions all need people to stay in the area to secure their viability.
“Throughout, the absolute priority of all businesses within the visitor economy is to operate in a Covid-secure manner with safety as our overall priority.”
The sentiment was echoed by Dan Visser, Director of Sales and Marketing with the Langdale Estate, which operates the Langdale Hotel and self-catering accommodation in Great Langdale.
He said: “We welcome the news that we can begin to welcome guests from July 4th and a significant amount of work is going on to make sure that the offering at Langdale is safe for visitors, colleagues and the local community.
“The whole guest journey, from arrival and check-in, with keys on their smartphone to ordering food and drink through an app to online check-out, has changed to put choice and safety at the heart of every step of the process.
“Keeping the team safe has been key to all the changes we have made. Offering a fantastic experience can only be delivered with a dedicated team so giving them a safe workplace has always been at the heart of everything we do.”
Mrs Lappin concluded: “Operating profitably will be a major challenge for many of our businesses in the forthcoming year, particularly through the winter with limited summer trading to support the low season.
“The government support has been welcome but, for many, the long term outlook remains challenging to return to the point of significant investment in their product so we would strongly urge people to rally round and support our businesses wherever possible.”