A tourism chief has called on the newly elected Government to plough ahead with its promised sector deal after new research laid bare the damaging impact political uncertainty is having on one of the county’s lifeblood industries.

Cumbria Tourism’s managing director, Gill Haigh, said it was “vital” the Government and Cumbria’s newly elected MPs “recognise and support” an industry worth £3 billion a year to the county’s economy.

The previously announced Tourism Sector Deal – which aims to drive growth and productivity – now needs to be delivered in full, she stressed, as the organisation’s latest six-monthly ‘health check’ highlighted the impact of Brexit uncertainty is having on businesses.

It revealed that 52 per cent of respondents were suffering due to the impact of Brexit.

Just over 60 per cent said their costs had increased over the last six months while 77 per cent said recruitment remained a serious problem.

Fears are already high the Government’s proposed post-Brexit immigration policy could severely damage tourism in Cumbria, which supports around 65,000 jobs.

Under it, workers from the European Union would need to earn more than £30,000 a year to stay in the UK longer term post-Brexit. And it could be reduced to £22,500, it is still way above the average wage in the county’s hospitality sector, which stands at £17,000.

Mrs High said: “There can be no doubt that these are challenging times as we head into 2020.

“Amid concerns around the proposed post-Brexit wage cap, issues around recruitment, retention and skills really are top priorities for urgent Government attention

“As a county, we must collectively use this latest first-hand research to make the case for future investment, strategy and business support with key decision-makers.

“It’s vital that the Government and Cumbria’s politicians recognise and support our industry.”

Cumbria Tourism’s Business Survey – carried out in association with accountancy and advisory firm, Lamont Pridmore – also highlighted the impact poor public transport and a lack of affordable housing was having on attracting and retaining staff.

The need for new product development, improved accessibility and inclusivity, and better digital connectivity was also highlighted.

Improving transport connections, support for product and promotion development, mentoring for businesses and digital skills training are key areas where the Government has pledged support through the creation of up to five new Tourism Zones – the most eye-catching initiative announced as part of the sector deal back in July.

Cumbria Tourism – which has 2,500 members – is working with Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and the Lake District National Park on a bid to secure the new status as part of a competitive process.

It remains unclear whether the Government will favour bids from well-established destinations such as Cumbria – the UK’s second most popular visitor destination as home to the Lake District World Heritage Site – or less well-know and popular regions with potential to increase the economic impact of tourism.

And the county looks set to go head-to-head with neighbouring Northumberland for the status after the North of Tyne Combined Authority said it was working with partners in the region on its own bid.