Whitehaven News:

Tourism businesses in Cumbria should be confident about the post-Brexit future.

That is the opinion of destination management organisation Cumbria Tourism, which has urged businesses in the sector to capitalise on overseas markets beyond Europe and gear up for an anticipated surge in ‘staycations’ when Britain leaves the European Union.

The body – which has 2,500 members across the county – says that the predicted post-Brexit fall in the value of the pound could bring a double boost for the industry.

A devalued pound would make it more attractive for overseas visitors to travel to the UK, while at the same time force UK residents to holiday at home due to the high costs of going abroad.

Some holiday accommodation operators, including the county’s largest independent lettings agency Pure Cottages Group, have already reported a significant growth in staycations amid the on-going uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

The number of overseas visitors is also understood to be increasing, with Cumbria Tourism and other operators targeting emerging overseas markets beyond Europe such as India and China, in addition to existing core markets including the United States and Japan.

Cumbria Tourism’s sales and marketing manager, Sue Clarke, said businesses should weigh up whether they should consider moving into new markets beyond Europe and boost their appeal to UK holidaymakers.

“Significant work is already being done to attract international visitors,” she said.

“Lake District businesses have been working in Japan for more than 25 years and great work has also been done to develop the China market. Most recently, Cumbria Tourism has identified India as a key emerging market.

“Our advice to businesses that aren’t currently working with international markets is to always pick the ones that are relevant for their business; this may be an EU country, or it might not be.”

She added: “We should also remember that domestic visitors are Cumbria’s core market. We’ve seen that people are holding off foreign holidays, so now is the perfect time to capitalise.

“If people are worried about the financial implications of European holidays post-Brexit, businesses should consider what they can do to make it easy and attractive to the domestic market.”

The encouragement comes as Cumbria Tourism prepares to host the ‘Are you ready for Brexit?’ conference on Tuesday (October 29) at the Low Wood Bay Resort and Spa.

The conference is one of a number of activities being undertaken by the organisation to help businesses prepare for the impact of Brexit, particularly a non-deal scenario, backed by a £26,000 grant from the Government’s Business Readiness Fund.

It will be held just a few days before the initial Brexit deadline of October 31.

However, EU members states have agreed to the UK’s request to a “flextension”, which will see it remain in the bloc until January 31 unless Parliament ratifies Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal sooner.

Brexit has been a significant concern for Cumbria’s tourism industry – which is worth around £3 billion to the UK economy each year and attracts 47 million people annually.

While concern remains over the potential impact of a new immigration policy on access to EU workers, who make up a significant proportion of the county’s tourism and hospitality workforce, many believe Brexit will not deter overseas visitors.

In a recent interview with in-Cumbria, Dr Angela Anthonisz, principal lecturer in tourism management at the University of Cumbria, said: “Cumbria will continue to remain a top tourism destination in the UK and the world.”

The university’s professor of practice and former managing director of Cumbria Tourism, Ian Stephens, added: “In fact, non-EU visitors may come in greater numbers. America is still the biggest overseas tourism market for Cumbria – everyone forgets that.”