Sunshine proves mixed blessing for some traders

The Westmorland Gazette: Phillip Johnston of Coniston Coppermines holiday cottage letting firm Phillip Johnston of Coniston Coppermines holiday cottage letting firm

2013 was the year the sun shone – making many tourism businesses happy after several washout summers. The numbers of heads on beds led to some tourism sectors enjoying their best season in seven years, according to official statistics. But what of tourism hopes for 2014? ELLIS BUTCHER reports

TOURISM is often a tale of two summers.

When the sun shines, hotels, campsites and outdoor attractions tend to be busy.

But warm weather can mean indoor attractions and shops struggling – the simple theory being that tourists want to be outside.

The latest official findings by Cumbria Tourism of business performance for the 10 months from January to October 2013 support this.

Many hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses told Cumbria Tourism they were up five per cent in 2013, while camping and caravan sites were up one per cent over the year.

On the flip side, inside attractions and shops surveyed by the Staveley-based organisation reported a ‘patchy year’.

Director of development at Cumbria Tourism Richard Greenwood said: “2013 has proved to be a much stronger year than 2012 which was plagued by recession, poor weather and London-focussed events. “Occupancy levels have been particularly strong over the summer and autumn with July and August showing the highest levels since 2006.”

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Better weather, more international visitors and returning customers all helped.

Independent research by national tourism organisation VisitEngland also showed that a Cumbria Tourism marketing campaign generated at least £7 million of business for the county.

Looking ahead to 2014, there are major developments in the pipeline to keep tourists coming back.

Building work is well under way in a £4 million expansion of South Lakes Wild Animal Park at Dalton-in-Furness.

It will see the park treble in size with new enclosures, new species of animals and interactive encounters.

Meanwhile, indoor attraction The World Of Beatrix Potter, Bowness, bucked a trend by seeing growth in the business – partially fuelled by a renewed interest from young visitors since the launch of the BBC Peter Rabbit animation series.

Chief executive Andy Poole said: “We have been very fortunate to have another good trading year, helped by a combination of factors including a dedicated team of managers and staff and a continued investment in the business.”

Looking to the future, 62 per cent of holiday businesses told the tourist board that all important forward bookings – ideal for business confidence – were ‘equal or better’ than they were for 2013, said Mr Greenwood.

“Two thirds are looking forward confidently to 2014 with the remaining third less sure about how the season would go,” said Mr Greenwood.

Phillip Johnston runs Coniston Coppermines, a holiday company which lets out around 80 holiday cottages in the Coniston area.

He said: “Christmas this year has been better than last year and so has New Year – we’re not totally full but we’re not far off. We’ve had a good year and are up about 20 per cent so we’re very happy.

“The economy seemed to turn in June when Andy Murray won Wimbledon – it was a pure coincidence! I think people have been saving and saving and then realised they had more disposable income than they realised and started to spend again.

“Interests rates were low so mortgages were low and the weather came good too and that makes a huge difference in the Lake District.”

A CAMPAIGN promoting the Lake District and Cumbria resulted in an extra £7 million being spent by tourists, research has found.

Cumbria Tourism linked up with VisitEngland for the Growing Tourism Locally initiative backed by government funding.

Now analysis has shown that in Cumbria, it resulted in more tourists and more spending, supporting 133 jobs.

One feature was a poster campaign running across key London rail and underground stations.

It drew people to the tourist board’s website – www.golakes.co.uk – with straplines like Go Take Your Breath Away. Of those who responded to a survey, 49 per cent travelled to Cumbria from outside the North West and 16 per cent were international visitors.

The average party size was 2.3 people, who stayed 4.58 nights on average, spending up to £400 during their stay.

Nearly half – 44 per cent – said they were directly influenced to make a trip to Cumbria after using the GoLakes website.

Around 13 per cent chose to stay longer than originally intended and 28 per cent of visitors went to more places in Cumbrian than planned because of the information available on the GoLakes website.

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