Eden Tourism Summit Goes Digital To Discuss Impacts Of COVID Pandemic

Around 100 people gathered online for the ninth Eden Tourism Summit to discuss the difficulties that the Covid pandemic has brought to the region. 

The summit was coordinated and hosted by Eden District Council’s tourism team and heard from local and national experts about how the sector can tackle new challenges and what the picture might look like in 2021.

Kurt Janson, director of The Tourism Alliance, joined the meeting to outline what new COVID-19 measures mean for businesses and championed the need for England-specific tourism promotion.

He said: “We are currently lobbying the Government with a three-stage recovery plan.

“Government takes domestic tourism for granted and it has just been expected that it would always happen. We want to rebuild the domestic tourism industry, and develop an England Tourism Strategy.

“There needs to be a sustainable funding mechanism for Destination Management Organisations, and a targeted tourism employment protection scheme.”

He also floated the idea of a ‘Stay Out to Help Out’ scheme along similar lines of the Eat Out to Help Out promotion, and looking at tax incentives for businesses who are investing in tourism in the current climate.

Helen Tate, Cumbria Tourism’s Research Manager, presented data from surveys carried out this year that showed how visitors’ habits and expectations have changed, and what their intentions might be for holidaying in the Lake District next year.

She said: “We are still analysing data from our September surveys, but some things are clear, such as trips abroad, which have fallen off a cliff and many of those people have no intention of travelling abroad in 2021.

“Our predictions for 2020 show that we will have lost around 23 million visits and 50 per cent of visitor days in Cumbria, as well as losing half of all tourism jobs.

“We have been asking businesses about their future plans and what assistance they need to be able to stay open.”

Among the other speakers during the event, Councillor Mary Robinson, Deputy Leader of the Council explained the importance of the region’s Natural Capital and how farmers will need to work with the tourism sector going forwards, while Jane Hasell-McCosh of Dalemain Mansion and Historic Gardens  and Judi Blakeburn, Brand Director of  Another Place, The Lake detailed how their businesses have adapted to new guidelines and dealt with reduced visitors during lockdown.

Jessica Goodfellow and Sally Hemsley, Joint Eden Tourism Managers at Eden District Council, demonstrated their social media approach in communicating vital messages to visitors, and praised local businesses for their resilience and ability to adapt to new situations.

Addressing the participants, the host for the day,  Chair of the Eden Tourism Network Jim Walker said: “These last six months have been the most challenging that any of us in the tourism industry has ever faced.

“However, this summit is also a cause for celebration of what a great industry we have here.”