If Copeland increases visitor numbers by just one per cent it could boost the local economy by almost £2 million, a high profile summit was told.

Delegates at the first Copeland Tourism Summit were urged to make more of the west coast.

The county's leaders are also working to apply for Tourism Action Zone status from the Government, to give Cumbria an extra boost.

Transport was also high on the agenda and travel firm Stagecoach told the audience that it wanted to help.

Mayor Mike Starkie hosted the summit at St Bees Management Centre on Friday.

It was in response to a plea from Peter Frost-Pennington, director of Muncaster Castle, at last year's Copeland is Open for Business Conference, that the tourism sector needed to be focused on in the borough.

Speakers at the tourism summit included Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism; Mr Frost-Pennington; Nigel Wilkinson, of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership; Steve Ratcliffe, director of sustainable development at the Lake District National Park Authority; Copeland MP Trudy Harrison and Julie Betteridge, executive director of operations at Copeland council.

Mr Starkie told delegates: "There is a real determination that we should shout a lot more about what we have to offer here.

"For the last 60 years, we have become known for innovation and expertise but for thousands of years we have had this God given asset of the landscape and the real impact this can have on the economy of the area.

"A lot of it is taken for granted by the people who live here, but it can make a real difference."

Mr Wilkinson, who also runs Windermere Lake Cruises, told delegates about Cumbria Local Enterprise's Local Industrial Strategy and work that is going on to collate evidence to back a bid for Cumbria to become one of five or six action zones in the UK.

Mrs Haigh told the delegates, who included transport operators, hotel and bed and breakfast owners and visitor attraction bosses, that Copeland had seen a 4.6 per cent increase in tourism numbers.

She said if that increased by one per cent, it would equate to £1.75m.

She said: "Play to your strengths, Copeland. Don't try to be something else – be quirky, be different. The time is right."

Mr Ratcliffe, who is also part of the Lake District National Park Partnership, said its local plan, due to be published in May, has 27 policies which recognise the county is different.

He said: "Now is your moment to give the area the attention it deserves. Think about the experiences you are presenting. You have an opportunity that other places in the Lake District do not."

"Speaking as a planning authority, we know we are facilitators of change and not conservors.

"The plan looks at issues and challenges each area faces and what we need to do.

"The coastline is critical as are crossings over the rivers Irt and Esk.

We are looking now at Wasdale and trying to reorientate Wasdale Head and improve toilet provision to help facilitate the people doing the Three Peaks Challenge."

Mr Ratcliffe said sustainable transport could have a part to play in reinvigorating Copeland's tourism offering and added that transport was key, especially along the coast – a point repeated by Mr Starkie, Mr Frost-Pennington and Mrs Harrison.

Mrs Harrison said: "We have got Sunday train services now, but unfortunately, we've had 45 Saturdays of strike action."

Stagecoach Cumbria managing director Mark Whitelocks was in the audience and he told the room: "There has been no mention of bus services. We can be flexible and do more and be more joined up."

Mrs Harrison said she would be pleased to arrange a meeting with Stagecoach to discuss how the firm could help.

Mr Frost-Pennington took delegates through a whistlestop tour of Copeland's highlights via a set of slides.

He said: "Tourism is often seen as a second league industry. It's not. It's premier league. It provides jobs and they aren't Cinderella jobs.

"They are proper tourism jobs.

"It provides facilities. In Ravenglass, there are 300 people. It has a pub, tearoom, B&B and post office all on one street.

"There are three pubs in total in the village. I'm not sure there are many communities of that size which can boast that."