Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Cumbria Tourist Board

1.  PREAMBLE

  Research has shown that "The Lake District" is the most recognised tourism brand outside London. In 1999, The National Geographic Magazine identified the Lake District as one of the World's top 50 "must see" destinations. Cumbria has also developed the following successful sub brands;

    —  Historic Carlisle and Hadrian's Wall

    —  Eden Valley and the North Pennines

    —  Western Lakes and Coast

    —  Lake District Peninsulas

  Cumbria enjoys an extensive range of high quality accommodation establishments and a variety of attractions. Key attractions are based on the area's unique landscape and cultural and historic inheritance eg fell walking, Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, lake cruises, Roman, Celtic and religious heritage.

2.  INTRODUCTION

  2.1  Evidence will be given by Chris Collier, Chief Executive, Cumbria Tourist Board (CTB). As Chief Executive of Cumbria Tourist Board, Chris Collier has overall responsibility for the management and implementation of CTB's annual business plan and the Regional Tourism Strategy for Cumbria.

  2.2  Chris Collier represents the tourism industry on the Cumbria FMD Task Force and Steering Group. Cumbria Tourist Board is also represented on the Task Force Sub-Groups dealing with Market Intelligence, Regeneration, Restrictions Review and the Lake District Action Plan.

  2.3  Cumbria Tourist Board is one of the ten English Regional Tourist Boards. The English Tourism Council devolves many of its functions to the Regional Tourist Boards, including a wide range of strategic policy, planning, development and marketing responsibilities. Cumbria Tourist Board is a partnership of the English Tourism Council, the local authorities and the private sector. Cumbria Tourist Board has a database of over 4,000 tourism businesses that it seeks to assist, 2,000 of whom are members for marketing purposes.

  2.4  Cumbria Tourist Board's role is summarised as follows:

    —  Marketing and promotion;

    —  Sustainable tourism development;

    —  Evaluation and research;

    —  Improving quality and value;

    —  Representation of the Industry.

  2.5  Cumbria Tourist Board prepares the Regional Tourism Strategy for Cumbria, in consultation with its partners and other interested parties. The Strategy contains key factual information about tourism in Cumbria, future trends and priorities for action. It also deals with policy concerning marketing, publicity and the provision of information for visitors. The current Regional Tourism Strategy for Cumbria was published in 1998. It aims to guide the development of the tourism industry to bring economic, social and environmental benefit to the region.

  2.6  Tourism in Cumbria is a vital industry with expenditure by visitors supporting over 47,000 jobs (25 per cent of total jobs). In 1999, the STEAM economic impact model provided statistics for the Local Authority and National Park areas of Cumbria. It estimates that visitor spending in Cumbria amounted to £964 million in 1999 (18 per cent of total GDP).

  2.7  The STEAM model provides estimates of the total numbers of visitors who stay overnight or take a day trip to, and within Cumbria. The table below indicates that 25.2 million visitors made such visits to Cumbria in 1999.

Tourist Numbers by Category of Visit

Tourist Numbers by Category of Visit (Millions)

  
Allerdale
Barrow
Carlisle
Copeland
Eden
South Lakeland
LDNP
County Total
Serviced Accommodation
0.4
0.1
0.4
0.1
0.3
1.1
1.2
2.4
Non-Serviced Accommodation
0.4
0.0
0.0
0.1
0.2
0.6
0.8
1.4
Staying with Friends and Relatives
0.1
0.1
0.2
0.1
0.1
0.2
0.1
0.8
Day Visitors
1.5
1.6
1.7
1.3
1.2
2.8
5.8
10.1
Intra-District Day Visitor
0.5
0.2
0.6
0.3
0.1
0.3
1.0
1.9
Leisure Day Visitors
1.3
0.9
1.9
1.0
0.9
2.5
4.9
8.6
Total Day Visitor Numbers
3.3
2.8
4.2
2.6
2.2
5.6
11.7
20.6
Total Tourist Numbers
4.3
3.0
4.8
2.9
2.8
7.5
13.8
25.2
Percentage of County Total
17%
12%
19%
12%
11%
30%
55%
100%


  Source: STEAM 1999, CTB.

3.  INFORMATION TO DOMESTIC AND OVERSEAS VISITORS

  3.1  CTB's marketing role focuses on attracting both domestic and overseas visitors. Information on accommodation, attractions, travel arrangements etc is collated annually into a highly successful Visitor Guide and Web Site. These day activities are prepared in partnership with the private sector, local authorities and others.

  In addition, CTB contributes to the Englands' North Country marketing consortium, a partnership whose sole responsibility is to concentrate on bringing overseas visitors to the North of England. For the last four years, CTB has also co-ordinated marketing activities for the Northern Uplands Farm Tourism Initiative. This initiative has provided successful marketing support for over 400 farm tourism providers in the North of England, increasing their income from tourism by 35 per cent since 1998.

  3.2  Overseas visits to Cumbria represent less than 10 per cent of all visits. The proportion of domestic and overseas visits has remained fairly consistent over the past 20 years. Cumbria enjoys almost year-round tourism, which suggests success with seasonal marketing campaigns and with visitor management policy to "spread the load" more evenly across the year. This strategy has provided stability in the economy and enabled the development of good quality, full time employment opportunities.

  3.3  On behalf of the English Tourism, Council Cumbria Tourist Board provides a co-ordinating role for the Tourist Information Centre network. There are 37 Tourist Information Centres in Cumbria. These centres are owned and operated by the Local Authorities and the National Park Authority. Cumbria Tourist Board operates the Lancaster Services Tourist Information Centre on the M6 Motorway.

  3.4  Information and Communications Technology plays an increasingly important role in tourism management and marketing. In Cumbria, less than 40 per cent of tourism businesses have access to the Internet and email facilities. Tourist Information Centres in Cumbria do not share common protocols and ICT standards. Such shortcomings are causing major difficulties in information provision and dissemination.

4.  CUMBRIA TOURIST BOARD AND FOOT AND MOUTH

  4.1  So far over 500 businesses have reported losses to the CTB. The sample survey indicates 432 jobs have been lost from these businesses alone. Businesses have no alternative but to lay-off employees or not to take staff on for the season. For example 17 out of the 24 Youth Hostels in the affected area have shut down and staff have been laid off.

  4.2  The multiplier effect on supplier businesses is already having a marked effect on the viability of the companies. Businesses from plumbers to laundries and food and drink suppliers are already seeing a fall in orders and the cancellation of advance work.

  4.3  CTB estimates over 1,000 job losses from tourism or tourism related business to date. This, however, does not include the large number of temporary and part time jobs that normally would have been created for the busier summer months.

  4.4  Tourist Information Centres in Cumbria showed that total bookings were down by 58 per cent in March 2001 compared to March 2000. The worst affected areas are in the Lake District, down by an average of 75 per cent. This trend is continuing throughout April.

  4.5  Easter showed an improvement in towns and larger villages, with most accommodation establishments reporting good occupancy levels and attractions sustaining good visitor levels. Heavily infected areas, valleys, remote rural areas and towns heavily dependent on walkers did not have a good Easter. Looking forward, cancellations continue to increase. Enquiries and advance bookings, almost non-existent since the start of the crisis, continue to show little sign of recovery despite considerable marketing activity.

  4.6  Although most tourism businesses in Cumbria have been damaged by FMD, CTB's assessment of those companies hardest hit are listed as follows:

    —  Almost all tourism operators in the most heavily infected areas

    —  Farm accommodation and attractions

    —  Tented camping

    —  Outdoor clothing and equipment retailers

    —  Hostels and outdoor activity centres/providers

    —  Accommodation, retail and all commercial activities in those areas heavily dependent on "serious walkers" eg Eskdale, Ennerdale, Buttermere, Borrowdale, Keswick, Coniston, Hawkhead, Ambleside and Ullswater.

5.  WHAT CUMBRIA TOURIST BOARD HAS ALREADY DONE:

  5.1  With the support of private and public bodies, Cumbria Tourist Board established a "Fighting Fund" to address short-term marketing efforts. The fund enabled the commissioning of Burson Marsteller crisis management public relation consultants. Burson Marsteller have been charged with countering erroneous and negative information portrayed by the media and other bodies; and also to ensure that the tourism industry position is clearly communicated and understood by Government.

  5.2  Established a Visitor Information Hotline, regularly briefing staff on dealing with concerned visitors and tourism businesses, FMD matters taking priority over other work commitments. Staff at CTB took over 5,000 calls in the first five weeks of the crisis.

  5.3  In the first three weeks of the FMD outbreak and with the assistance of Lamont Pridmore, CTB produced and distributed a Business Survival Toolkit to over 4,000 tourism and tourism dependent businesses in Cumbria.

  5.4  Provided up-to-date information on the Cumbria Tourist Board website, www.gocumbria.co.uk featuring things to do for visitors, such as events, activities and opening times of visitor attractions unaffected by the FMD outbreak.

  5.5  Provided daily briefings (including weekends) with local, regional and national media, clarifying Cumbria Tourist Board's position on policy and the other rapid changes in circumstances, with the support of Burson Marsteller.

  5.6  Participated in the Cumbria Taskforce and emergency working groups each week. CTB is represented on the Steering Committee, Restrictions and Access Working Groups, Regeneration/Market Intelligence Working Group and LDNP Action Planning Group.

  5.7  Attended meetings with government/shadow government ministers and officials, including the Prime Minister, to ensure that the tourism perspective is fully appreciated.

  5.8  Prepared an "emergency" Marketing and Recovery Plan to support Cumbria's tourism industry and the Government's "Countryside open for Business" campaign.

  5.9  Prepared and distributed three FMD business information bulletins to over 4,000 business in Cumbria. The bulletins contain the Business Survival Toolkit, general advice, information on marketing activities and plans, lobbying issues, contact addresses and forthcoming meetings.

  5.10  Undertook pre Easter multi-media activities including press advertising, public relations work, postcard lead generation campaign and website activities.

  5.11  Attended numerous crisis briefing meetings organised at national, regional and local level, including meetings of Tourism Forum, the Tourism Summit, North West Development Agency Task Force, Tourism Associations, Partnerships, Chamber of Commerce, Emergency Working Groups and other concerned community groups.

  5.12  Ensured that local tourism officers and Tourist Information Centres are fully briefed and informed.

6.  WHAT CUMBRIA TOURIST BOARD WILL DO NEXT:

  6.1  Continue to integrate our Recovery Plan with those being prepared by the Cumbria Taskforce, the North West Development Agency and English Tourism Council. The plan encompasses short, medium and long-term priorities, including a request for funding support for 2001 and 2002 marketing and development activities.

  6.2  Develop the case for compensation for tourism businesses in Cumbria (see Appendix One attached), highlighting the scale and extent of FMD's disastrous impact on visitor expenditure, local economies and the special circumstances pertaining to Cumbria.

  6.3  Implement the 2001 Marketing Campaign, rescheduling original plans to take account of the FMD crisis.

  6.4  Prepare the case for, and ensure that preparations for 2002 marketing activities are undertaken, taking into account relaunch and enhanced promotional activities to entice customers back to Cumbria.

  6.5  Co-ordinate and disseminate up-to-date information via the website and Tourist Information Centre network focusing on what visitors can do and see in Cumbria. Provide reassurance to visitors and correct misconceptions that exist about FMD.

  6.6  Work with Small Business Service and others to provide support services to tourism businesses damaged by FMD.

As well as highlighting the extensive range of things to do in Cumbria, in terms of marketing activities we will be:

    —  promoting Cumbria's cultural activities that are unaffected at present;

    —  developing a web based gardens campaign (supported by a postcard campaign);

    —  developing a web based "gourmet Cumbria" campaign (supported by a postcard campaign);

    —  publishing and distributing up to 1 million "things to do" magazines in association with local newspaper groups;

    —  continuing and enhancing the successful postcard lead generation activity in association with Country Living, Country Walking, Motoring and Leisure, BBC Gardeners World and other Magazines;

    —  developing IT based package holidays in partnership with Virgin Railways and with the assistance of Burson Marsteller;

    —  capitalising on travel trade and media interest in Cumbria generated by Burson Marsteller; and

    —  developing the travel trade website and implementing 2001 travel trade promotions.

7.  IN THE MEDIUM AND LONGER TERM CUMBRIA TOURIST BOARD WILL BE:

  7.1  Ensuring that essential consumer and travel trade marketing activities are in place for 2002.

  7.2  Making the case for a marketing grant scheme for tourism businesses for 2002.

  7.3  Evaluating the scale and impact of FMD on Cumbria's Tourism Industry, and providing the evidence needed to make the call for enhanced Government support for tourism marketing and development.

  7.4  Rebuilding consumer confidence in the "Cumbria—the Lake District" brand and preparing a relaunch campaign to include image advertising campaigns to the trade and consumers, both in key overseas markets and within the UK.

  7.5  Ensuring that other Government funds and other public funds are used effectively to provide long-term benefits to both tourism businesses and tourism support organisations.

8.  OUTSTANDING ISSUES AND PROBLEMS

  8.1  We anticipate greater recognition of the importance of tourism to the UK economy in the light of this national crisis. In the Cumbrian economy, tourism has a greater significance than any other region of England. The Countryside Agency had already identified Cumbria as a deprived area before the onset of FMD. Tourism is one of the few industries with the potential to grow in the Region, yet Cumbria and its tourism industry have been hit harder by FMD than any other part of the UK. We need recognition of Cumbria as a special case, with specific, targeted assistance to protect high quality businesses that are unable to trade effectively through this crisis.

  8.2  Confusing messages from "official sources" continue to cause media hysteria and misrepresentation that result in cancellation of bookings and visits to Cumbria. We need the media to provide accurate portrayals of situations, but with full regard for the impact of their reporting.

  8.3  Poor ICT infrastructure within both the private and public sector continues to cause problems, confusion and inefficiencies. The urgent need for the industry and public sector to adopt an effective ICT infrastructure to assist tourism development, marketing and promotion has been well demonstrated by this crisis.

  8.4  Decisions on managing the disease continue to be taken without reference to the impact on the wider economy. Blanket restrictions imposed by MAFF have caused a complete ban on hill/fell walking and an extensive range of outdoor activities. Until we regain access to the fells for serious walking and climbing etc, no amount of advertising will help businesses and whole communities that are dependent on these activities. Advice on the risks associated with adopting strategies that would enable the fells to reopen needs to be clearly stated.

  8.5  We need information requests to be co-ordinated around a common set of data. A large number of "information" requests have emanated from local and regional Government agencies, the media, visitors and community groups, all adding to the pressure imposed on scarce resources.

  8.6  We need marketing funds that will enable the Cumbrian tourism industry to relaunch itself and compete effectively on the World stage. Our marketing strategy is costed at £11.75 million, for which we have secured commitment for only £2.5 million to date.

April 2001


 
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