ANNEX II: NOTE BY MS CLAIRE WARD MP
Meeting held with Chris Collier, Chief
Executive of Cumbria Tourist Board in Windermere on Friday 13
I met Chris during my stay in the Lake District over
Easter. I also took the opportunity to see at first hand the problems
for the tourist industry as a result of foot and mouth disease.
The biggest problem is that the attraction for visitors
to the Lake District is walking. With so many footpaths remaining
closed and most importantly access to The Fells denied, the main
attraction for many of the regular visitors has been significantly
Many of the guest houses have seen bookings for May
and June onwards almost cease completely. I am told that during
the early part of the year they would normally be fairly busy
taking bookings for the summer. But the publicity around FMD,
at that important time of the year, has severely reduced the number
of bookings for this period, with many guest houses and hotels
reporting weeks of vacancies where they would normally be virtually
The CTB estimate that tourism is down by around 80
per cent in the county. With around 90 per cent of all visitors
being from the UK, it is clear that our own domestic message has
been as much of a problem as our message to the overseas market.
Some of the more important points from our discussions
can be highlighted as follows:
- The majority of the worst affected areas of FMD
are to the north of the county. But the south lakes are equally
affected by the impact on tourism. Despite the media images, I
saw no signs of burning cattle. The only sign of FMD was the closure
notices on many footpaths. The opening of some footpaths for Easter
was greatly welcomed. Visitor attractions and the villages were
busy, but, I am told, less so than normal.
- There are around 17 YHAs in the county, which
have been forced to close. This could result in the permanent
loss of these facilities, as they cannot afford the financial
losses even in the short-term.
- Small businesses are the hardest hit with some
reporting no income for over 6 weeks. These require the most help
from compensation, but are unlikely to benefit significantly from
the National Rescue Package. The rate relief on properties applies
only to those with a rateable value of up to £12,000. But
the majority of properties, even the smallest, are likely to be
above that because of the high cost of the area. The small amount
of relief is unlikely to sustain those businesses with little
or no income and with little prospect of bookings in the summer.
- The Loan Guarantee Scheme is offering loans at
interest rates which are higher than those available at high street
banks. Businesses that invest over the winter in anticipation
of recouping it in a good summer will find it particularly difficult
to get loans this year. Although there will be a delay in payment
of capital, interest will still need to be repaid.
The CTB are proposing the following assistance to
help the tourist industry:
- Opening The Fells. Expert advice offered to CTB
indicates that the risk of spreading FMD by bringing the sheep
off the Fells and re-opening them to walkers is small in comparison
to the huge effect upon the wider economic community. Local MPs
and the business community are pursuing this case. Keeping visitors
off the Fells is a safety device that is proving to have a devastating
effect upon the tourist industry, yet is not proving to be a reliable
way of reducing the spread of FMD.
- More footpaths need to be opened and greater
publicity when this happens.
- Assistance for the tourist industry based upon
the examples of compensation after oil spillage disasters (further
detail on this provided by CTB).
- Recognition of the other problems that the area
has had to face recentlyhigh costs of rail travel (costing
between £160 and £250 return London to Lake District)
and fuel costs.