Resignation after Cumbria Tourism row
Last updated at 22:03, Monday, 09 July 2012
One of the county’s most successful businessmen has resigned from tourism’s top table in the aftermath of a row at the annual general meeting of Cumbria Tourism.
Nigel Wilkinson, MD of Windermere Lake Cruises, resigned from the Commercial Members Committee just hours after standing for another three year term.
Mr Wilkinson found himself caught in the crossfire between tourism businesses in the north of the county and those in the SouthLakes at the meeting.
Two guesthouse owners based near Keswick, loudly complained from the 120-strong audience that a video of the arrival of the Olympic torch to Windermere and Bowness shown at the AGM, had omitted the torch’s tour through Keswick and Carlisle.
The complaints stoked long-standing and long-denied accusations that Cumbria Tourism is too South Lakes-centric. It emerged Mr Wilkinson’s Windermere-based company had commissioned and paid for the short video to hail the torch’s celebrated passage onboard one of the company’s boats.
Mr Wilkinson, renowned for his no-nonsense straight-talking, said at the time: “We funded it and nobody is trying to take anything over. Although I don’t know why I bothered. The North is not being denigrated.”
In full possession of the facts, the two complainants later apologised to the committee and expressed their sadness at Mr Wilkinson’s resignation. They agreed to meet with senior members of the committee to discuss perceived south-north divisions. But despite tempers cooling, Mr Wilkinson has not retaken his place.
Currently out of the country, his photograph and contact details have been removed from Cumbria Tourism’s website. Barring a change of heart overseas, he is expected to stay on as a Director of Cumbria Tourism’s board.
It means a headache for incoming committee chairman Simon Bennett of Augill Castle, who had only just taken control of the group for the first time. The vacant seat could force an election if more than one tourism business comes forward to stand for Mr Wilkinson’s seat.
Today Mr Bennett, told In-Cumbria: “I think Nigel was exasperated but that in itself was not the sole reason he resigned. It may have been the catalyst but he is not the sort to make decisions like this. I think Nigel has been thinking about it for some time.”
He said Mr Wilkinson would be a "massive loss," but had originally volunteered to put himself forward for a place on the committee because too few people had stood for the seats available. That’s a situation Mr Bennett intends to put right during his year. He appealed for tourism business owners from all corners of Cumbria to come forward and help bring about an election to occupy Mr Wilkinson's place.
Mr Wilkinson heads up what is Cumbria’s most popular tourist attraction and the fourth best visited in England, with over one million passengers a year.
Head of around 150 staff, Mr Wilkinson served on the Commercial Members Committee for six years including as chairman and also chaired Cumbria Tourism’s audit and remuneration committee.
Mr Wilkinson and Cumbria Tourism were all unavailable for comment.
- Contact Ellis Butcher at email@example.com
First published at 10:23, Monday, 09 July 2012
Published by http://www.in-cumbria.com
Have your say
I have two tourism businesses, one of which is located in Keswick. The northern lakes certainly do appear to be forgotten with the emphasis almost continually being focussed south of Dunmail Raise - the pass between Grasmere and Keswick. In fact, many of our customers point out that the northern lakes are a "hidden gem" which would also suggest that promotion of the area is significantly less than the tourist honeypot of Windermere.The emphasis is also on the large hotels and businesses and it is very common to see the same few tourist attractions or hotels getting much media exposure whilst small business struggle to even get a mention.I would certainly welcome Cumbria Tourism looking at this issue in an effort to redress what I certainly believe is a misbalance.
It is always sad to see explosions of this kind, but usually they indicate a deeper or broader underlying issue. In this case maybe good could come out of it if it were to trigger a serious reappraisal of whether Cumbria Tourism does, or does not, serve effectively the whole of the county. Back in 1983, as an external consultant, I worked on the development of strategy for the Cumbria Tourist Board. At that time there were strong perceptions that it did not do so.Since retiring back to my native county, although not in any systematic manner I have been gathering impressions to the effect that the past thirty years may not have seen much improvement in this regard. A totally independent straight-talking assessment would appear to be called for.