Cumbria Tourism is an organisation that is used to dealing with challenges. 

Whether it is the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 or the devastating floods which hit the county in 2009 and 2015, the county’s destination management organisation has often had its work cut out to help tourism businesses bounce back from disaster.  

As it celebrates its 50th year, Cumbria Tourism is again doing its best to help its 4,500 members and the wider sector recover from the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, coupled with a slew of other issues.  

"Everybody thought that post pandemic things would ease up dramatically and get back to normal, whatever normal is, and that really has not happened,” says president Jim Walker. 

“It’s all about the cost of living crisis. It's all about labour supply. It's all about supply chains, its competition, all these things mixing together and it's really never got a lot easier as time has gone on. 

"It's a very challenging backdrop, but I think those operators that are working hard to tighten up the marketing and tighten up their offers and work hard at the delivery in terms of what they're offering visitors when they come, they will succeed.” 

Jim says the industry has become far more competitive since the Cumbria Tourist Board was first formed in 1974. 

"Our customers are much more educated and the opportunities are much greater for them," he says.  "Cumbria Tourism is working hard to highlight why Cumbria is different, why it offers superb opportunities for rest and relaxation and how it offers a much wider range of experiences than people, perhaps, would imagine. Our landscape is our prime attraction, of course, but there are lots of other things, lots of events, lots of activities, lots of experiences to engage in and it's trying to make sure that we grow our markets and we attract different types of markets to 50 years ago.” 

With overseas visitor numbers dropping in the wake of Covid-19, Jim says the organisation is focused on trying to bring them back, as well as offering training to businesses to keep them informed of the latest trends.  

"I think historically 50 years ago people were looking simply for self-catering, for a bed and breakfast or a hotel. That landscape has changed so dramatically,” says Jim. 

“People want to know how to access the Lake District, how they can do it sustainably and what they can do when they're here in advance, because there are many choices before them. We've got to put the options before them which will attract them to come here specifically.” 

As well as traditional outdoor pursuits, Jim says the area has to promote other attractions, such as the arts, culture, events and food and drink. 

"It's a privilege to host people that come to the county, it's a really great thing to be able to do. It's really important to get that right and make the most of every opportunity and make sure our customers more than enjoy it,” says Jim.  

He says while wet weather and an early Easter have created a tricky start to the spring and summer, the challenge is now on to keep promoting the area and driving trade. 

In particular he says operators need to be aware of the greater diversity of people from different ages and backgrounds who are visiting post-pandemic. 

"We need to make sure we match those needs and we exceed people's expectations from those new generations,” he says.  

“It's great to see a lot of different ethnic groups coming from different parts of the UK.  “Different sectors have different needs and we need to make sure we meet those needs, whether it be language and translation, or customer handling or cultural understanding. Those things need to be brought to the fore to make sure we capitalise.” 

As part of its 50th anniversary year, Cumbria Tourism will be looking far beyond 2024 at its Innovation and Future Trends in Tourism Conference in November. 


"From a business development and a marketing perspective, it's always important to be looking at what is coming down the track at us,” says In Cumbria:

“Sometimes it can be really basic things, but other times it is really innovative stuff that we need to be considering.” 

Headline speakers will include Kate Nicholls OBE, chief executive of UKHospitality and consumer predictions specialist the Foresight Factory, which has been working with Visit England to develop its strategy for the coming decade.  

The conference will also give attendees the opportunity to meet businesses who may be able to help them tackle some of the challenges of the future. 

Gill expects some of the themes to include tourism infrastructure and solutions to labour shortages, as well as the role of artificial intelligence in marketing. 

Coin Corner, which helps facilitate cryptocurrency payments for businesses, will also be at the conference to talk about how to integrate crypto payments in the sector. 

Design will be another theme, including robotics and building and product design, as well as the potential for creating efficiencies through design of accommodation. 

James Hill, of the Hampton Manor Hotel, in the West Midlands, will also be at the conference to discuss supply chain sustainability, based on his own work to ensure ingredients are sourced with as small a carbon footprint as possible.  

Sustainable travel will also be up for discussion, in particular around a project Cumbria Tourism is involved with with a company named You. Smart. Thing. which is using satellite data to help people park, use public transport and plan their visit. 

A panel of young people will also be taking part to give ideas and feedback on the topics covered at the conference. 

Tickets for the event go on sale this month and Gill hopes it will have a national profile, as well as attracting local businesses.  

Proceeds from ticket sales will go towards Cumbria Tourism’s 50th anniversary fund which will be used to help young people into careers in the sector.