Up to 100 Cumbrian businesses will be inspired this week to develop ideas, products and services for the one of the county’s biggest industries – tourism.

The visitor economy is worth billions every year to the region and the University of Cumbria and Lancaster University are working in partnership in a European-backed project to support SMEs that are seeking to grow and innovate.

Innovation in the Visitor Economy Supply Chain is being held at Castle Green Hotel, Kendal this week.

Delegates will hear about the future opportunities the county’s growing visitor economy has to offer from Gill Haigh, chief executive of Cumbria Tourism, while Craig Ivison, head of skills at Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, will discuss industry strategies.

Innovate UK, the Government’s innovation funding body, will explore existing digital innovations boosting the nation’s tourism industry.

Geoff Ramm, of Celebrity Service and OMG Marketing, will also deliver a presentation before delegates take part in afternoon workshops exploring how to bid for funding to develop innovation ideas, sustainable tourism and events, and virtual gifting.

Sarah Allison, Cumbria Innovations Platform project manager, University of Cumbria, said: “There can be many obstacles for small businesses who want to innovate including cost, a lack of skills, time and relevant expertise.

"Cumbria Innovations Platform helps businesses to overcome these barriers by giving them skills and knowledge they need and by providing practical hands-on support with research, product prototyping and testing.

“Innovation is a broad subject area with the common belief that innovation is only ever linked to high end technology, robotics and advanced engineering but that’s not the case, particularly in Cumbria.

“There are many SMEs and micro businesses introducing new services and products all the time.

"The use of digital technology for example can open up new markets for small companies and can help them understand customer behaviour and their future needs.

"When we identify and understand future needs we can then innovate to meet those needs.”