Tourism sector rolls up its sleeves for 2010

 

Cumbria’s tourism sector is ready to fight “tooth and nail” to make 2010 a successful year.

 

That was the defiant message from hoteliers and tourism chiefs when they met in Kendal to discuss how the region can bounce back from last November’s floods and capitalise on the “staycation” phenomenon of 2009.

 

Representatives from some of the region’s leading hotels met with bosses from Cumbria Tourism and the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), as well as professional advisors at a special roundtable discussion hosted by Moore and Smalley Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors.

 

Ian Stephens, chief executive of Cumbria Tourism, said the sector had every reason to be optimistic and should look to maximise opportunities to promote the Cumbria and Lake District brand.

 

He said: “Despite recent events there are many favourable factors for making the Lake District and Cumbria a very desirable destination for the UK holiday market, and all the indicators we use in terms of web bookings and other forecasts are showing that 2010 can be just as good as the first three quarters of 2009.

 

“The Lake District brand is a powerful one and I think there is a tremendous opportunity for hotels to continue to re-sell and refresh their proposition around this brand. We seem to be holding up our room occupancy better in the Lake District than a lot of other areas and that’s because of this fantastic leisure product that we have.”

 

Colin Johnson, corporate services director at Moore and Smalley, and head of the firm’s specialist leisure and tourism team, said: “It’s clear that most tourism businesses are optimistic and are prepared to fight tooth and nail to make 2010 a success by being innovative with their product and pricing.”

 

Together, Cumbria Tourism and the Lakes Hospitality Association (LHA) have championed a special promotion offering a Sunday hotel stay for just £9.95. Various hotels have participated in the special offer which is aimed at promoting the region’s “open for business” message and bringing in visitors from across the UK during the off-season.

 

Colin Monk, owner of The Howbeck and Windermere Suites, and a committee member of the LHA, said his members were largely optimistic about the year ahead despite the events of late 2009. He said the businesses that had performed best over the last 12 months were the ones that had invested in their product.

 

He said: “It’s not just the experience from a service point of view, but the quality of fixtures, fittings, and how you present yourself on the internet. Those hotels that do invest will reap the benefits and those that rest on their laurels will suffer.”

 

Jane Randall, head of visitor economy for the NWDA, said: “The attractions sector has performed well throughout the whole region and the camping, caravan and self-catering side of things is also doing very well. A recent business confidence monitor carried out by Visit England showed that over 50 per cent are confident they will do the same level of business as last year and around 25 per cent believe they will do more business than last year.”

 

Simon Berry, managing director of English Lakes Hotels, said that the relatively weak pound was helping to boost domestic visitors and visitors from overseas. He reported an increase in visitors from Northern Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

 

Peter Jackson, of Heart of the Lakes, which offers self-catering holiday cottages, said forward bookings for self-catering accommodation are already up on last year and that this was a good barometer of what would happen generally in the tourism sector over the next 12 months.

 

The event was also attended by Joe Longmuir of Langdale Leisure, Tim Rumney of the Castle Green Hotel, Barney Cunfliffe of Gilpin Lodge, and Alison Kinder commercial property partner at Oglethorpe, Sturton and Gillibrand Solicitors.