Greater regulation for Airbnb properties is needed to prevent damaging Cumbria’s reputation as a high-quality tourism destination.

That is the belief of Ian Stephens, the former managing director of Cumbria Tourism, now professor of practice at the University of Cumbria, and Dr Anthonisz, the university’s new principal lecturer in tourism management.

Regulation of Airbnb, an online marketplace for connecting consumers with independent accommodation providers, has been a long-running issue in Cumbria, which has several independent holiday home and cottage businesses.

They want a level playing field to be introduced with Airbnb.

And Mr Stephens believes that political intervention will be needed to tackle an issue created by the “liberalisation” of the holiday accommodation industry.

“Personally, in the early days I would have voted to ban air Airbnb or at least ensure that they be subjected to the same rules and regulations as the already established operators – but we’re well past that now,” he told in-Cumbria.

“The problem is that some accommodation is sub-standard and do not meet safety and quality standards. Also, some operators were known to be flouting tax and planning regulations.

“So, in a destination like Cumbria, that prides itself on high quality standards, these establishments threaten reputation and the good work of many legitimate businesses.

“However, Airbnb is massive and is a successful marketing channel for millions of businesses, so it needs strong political intervention if we want to eradicate the problems caused by sub-standard accommodation.”

Mr Stephens’ comments come as there appears to be some movement on the issue, with Airbnb kicking of a six-month roadshow in major cities across the UK to inform a “white paper” which could include proposals for a registration system.

According to national trade association British Destinations, the UK is known for having one of the least robust approaches to the sharing accommodation economy, and it has vowed to continue its push for greater regulation regardless of the Airbnb consultation.

And Mr Stephens believes Airbnb poses a bigger concern to Cumbria’s tourism industry than the continued growth in chain hotels – another trend that has caused a backlash from independent operators in the county.

“You want a balance, a range of different experiences, but ultimately the consumer will decide what they do and do not like,” he said.

Premier Inn caused a stir in Kendal when it developed a hotel in the town centre, which it later extended due to demand.

And Travelodge’s plans to convert the majority of the former K Village retail site in the town into a 69-bed hotel have also received a lukewarm reception from tourism chiefs, despite securing planning approval.

Plans by chain hotels to set up in the Lake District have met fierce opposition and have, so far, been defeated. Elsewhere, an £11 million Holiday Inn Express is due to open in Barrow later this year, while work has begun on a 78-room Travelodge in Workington.

Dr Anthonisz said that while there was room for big hotel chains, the county’s industry should remain wary.

“There will always be people that will want to stay in them, and if you want Cumbria to appeal to a wide range of markets then you have got to acknowledge some people like those brands,” she said.

“They are popular because of the strength of their brands – you know what you’re going to get, whereas you take a bit of a risk staying with an independent that you don’t know.

“Equally, some of our independent provision has got equally amazing reputations, with fantastic service, lakeside views and so on.

“I think there’s room for chain hotels, just so long as they don’t come in and take over, which would obviously be a concern.”

Dr Anthonisz and Mr Stephens are the driving force behind several new courses that have been introduced by the University of Cumbria and delivered from its campus in Ambleside, to upskill the county’s tourism and hospitality workforce.

Working with the industry, the university hopes to propel people up the career ladder while at the same time pave the way for a new generation to take up opportunities in the industry.

It will also launch the UK’s first postgraduate MBA in tourism management in September 2020 to help students from Cumbria, the UK and overseas on their journey to the highest-level jobs the sector can offer.

Learn more about the courses and how the University of Cumbria is aiming to develop the county’s tourism workforce by viewing the latest edition of in-Cumbria, available to read online at