Written evidence submitted by Cumbria Tourism



Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) inquiry into heritage and international tourism - Cumbria Tourism DMO Response


Cumbria is home to two World Heritage Sites, Hadrian’s Wall, which was inscribed in 1987 and the Lake District, which was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2017 as a cultural landscape.


Even before this inscription The Lake District was a leading UK destination, a unique place, famed for its cultural landscapes and increasingly recognised as a world class visitor destination.


The unique beauty of the landscape has inspired generations of artists and writers.

Key writers and artists of the 18th and 19th centuries associated with the Lake District include William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Constable, J M W Turner, John Ruskin and Beatrix Potter.


The homes and haunts that inspired these greats are the places that today’s visitors wish to come to. So it is no surprise that the Lake District is the most popular UK National Park - a recent article identified the Lake District as being amongst the most Instagrammed National Parks in the world with over 2.5 million mentions for #lakedistrict.


The county’s visitor economy contributed £3.1bn in 2019, supporting 65,000 jobs, equivalent to 26% of Cumbria’s working age population, and the visitor economy has seen revenue growth of 10.3% between 2009 – 2018.


Recent years had seen an increased international visitor appeal (circa 15% of overall visitor market), and multi-million-pound private sector investments. Cumbria was beginning to seize this golden opportunity to significantly raise its profile as a sustainable world class destination and increase the year-round value of tourism to the whole county. 


Just 1% growth would add £30m to the economy and further benefit the cultural and social offer for those who already live as well as those we seek to attract to live, work, study and invest. Many rural communities rely on tourism to support services like busses and shops. 


Cumbria’s visitor economy ambition

Cumbria, through its joined up approach (DMO, LEP, National Parks and Local Authorities), has positioned itself to bring businesses and local organisations together to establish a coordinated strategy for sustainable tourism growth. This includes plans to:

-          Increase off-season visits and overnight stays

-          Extend the length of stays and increase the value of each stay

-          Further extend our ‘attract and disperse’ strategy benefiting the whole of the county

-          Increase our appeal to younger and family markets

-          Increase our appeal as an inclusive destination

-          Increase our appeal to international markets

-          Support new product development, innovation and digital connectivity

-          Deliver reliable, sustainable transport solutions - connecting to and within the county

-          Improve retention, recruitment, and skills

-          Equip businesses with knowledge, skills, training, and support to maximise productivity

-          Work with partners to deliver Net Zero ambitions



Impact of Covid-19

Never has there been a time when it has been more evident just how much the visitor economy underpins the wider economy. The impact of COVID-19 has been catastrophic for the county’s tourism industry with 2020 seeing £2bn (two thirds) the visitor economy value wiped out.


The loss of the international markets has been strongly felt. Where previously international business accounted for 20% for many cultural and heritage attractions as well as other tourism and hospitality businesses, this last year it was just 2%.

What needs to be done to re-establish the UK as a holiday destination for international travellers?

International visitors is an area of growth for Cumbrian tourism and cultural businesses, but we do think that marketing Britain as a top cultural and heritage centre internationally is required in order to address the potential negative impacts on international tourism that our reputation arising from Covid and Brexit may cause.

1. Increase Funding for International Marketing

2. Introduce a Low Cost 5 Year Visitor Visa

3. Retain the Reduced VAT Rate For Hospitality and Attractions

4. Implement the De Bois Review

5. Revise the Package Travel Regulations

6. Reinstate the VAT Reclaim Scheme

7. Use ETAs to Boost Business Tourism

8. Introduce a ‘List of Travellers’ Scheme for Student Groups £1.0bn

it must be remembered that the tourism and hospitality industries face considerable supply-side constraints that need to be resolved – notably staffing shortages which are causing a quarter of businesses to reduce services. This needs to be resolved in order for the revenue from demand-side stimulus to be maximised

- What should Government and the tourism boards be doing to support the inbound tourism industry in its recovery?

See above plus clear communication and advanced warning to the public about health risks by country, and government rules and regulations required to travel internationally should be as alight touch as possible.

- What will the impact on the UK’s hospitality, cultural and heritage sectors be if inbound tourism is slow to recover to pre-pandemic levels?

Cumbria is made up of SMEs, many of whom have invested significantly in their offer, on the assumption of a continuing growth in international tourism resulting from many years of marketing and relationship building, particularly with China, Japan, India. Europe and, more recently, India. Not only are these markets overnight and higher spending visitors but many visit outside the main British holiday season, helping to extend the season. We have also seen growth in FIT, who are keen to explore more widely, supporting our objectives to grow the value of the visitor economy countywide.

A slow recovery will stem investment and as well as growth, impacting longer term on our competitiveness with non UK destinations. International markets will move quickly to other countries already investing heavily in courting them and once lost it is a much greater effort to win back.

The two main initiatives set out in the Recovery Plan to achieve this target are:

• £10m in vouchers from the national Lottery to visit tourism attractions

• A new domestic rail pass

While these initiatives will boost domestic tourism for some businesses, they are will not increase inbound and outbound revenue

Hospitality, cultural & heritage grants, furlough, VAT rate cuts etc via the government, combined with other funding for the arts and cultural sector, have given have been supportive but it is essential that a package of support continues, as set out in the eight points above.

- What are the biggest challenges to delivering the plan?

Longevity of Covid-19 and/or its effects on consumer confidence and behaviour and/or the medium term economic impact on average family travel and consumer behaviour (rising costs of fuel, inflation, energy costs as well as additional travel costs linked to Covid)..

Business confidence too. Uncertainly combined with income losses over two years and increasing costs will impact on business willingness/ability to invest.

Another significant challenge is the changes in the labour market and, in particular the labour shortages. Cumbria has a tiny and super aging population. This combined with a lack of affordable housing and local workers choosing other sectors above tourism, hospitality and arts/culture, is significantly restricting recruitment and retention and in turn stifling recovery.

The tourism industry helps shape how the UK is perceived overseas. International marketing campaigns (including the GREAT campaign), business and events based tourism and educational travel all enhance the UK’s global standing and project the country as an open and welcoming place for investment and trade.

Government must seize the opportunities this industry can offer and invest in showcasing itself internationally.



- How can the UK capitalise on its exit from the European Union?

Good trade deals with the EU that allow for affordable travel, accommodation and breadth of offer to the largest EU travel market possible

- What are the biggest threats to the status of ‘soft power superpower’?

A failure to recognise the opportunities, seize the moment, invest and really take tourism seriously as an economic driver for the UK. To do otherwise is to allow other countries to take our space, market and economic benefits. Unaffordable travel costs, expensive train fares and accommodation could act as threats to both the domestic and international tourism industries.