CUMBRIA Tourism says the latest announcement, placing the county in Tier 4, and at incredibly short notice was a sad final blow in what has proved to be an unprecedented year for our brilliant businesses.

Under the new restrictions, all hospitality businesses in the county have been ordered to close, with the exception of those which can remain open by driving sales through takeaway, drive-through or delivery services. Accommodation for key workers is permitted. All personal care businesses, non-essential retail, indoor leisure and entertainment venues also remain temporarily shut.

Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, Gill Haigh, says, “There’s no question that people’s health and wellbeing must always come first and as ever Cumbria Tourism businesses have been swift to act and support communities.

“But 2020 was an incredibly challenging year and businesses, with COVID wiping off two thirds of the value of the visitor economy and sadly seeing jobs lost and continued risk to jobs.

“Even before the Cumbria Tier 4 announcement, Cumbria Tourism research showed that the restrictions elsewhere were hitting Cumbria hard. Average operating capacities, income levels, occupancy levels and forward bookings had fallen heavily and forecasts for Cumbria are for a £2bn fall in value.

"By far the biggest concern for businesses is cashflow and playing their bills.

“As an industry, we are grateful to the Government for the support it has provided so far but it is abundantly clear that a sector specific package is needed.

"Our appeal to government is to provide a speedy commitment and route to help these businesses shoulder this latest phase and to enable them to survive long enough to remain viable throughout 2021 and beyond.

"We have been using our member findings to feedback business asks and work with our regional and national industry partners to evidence the need and reinforce the ask.”

Gill Haigh continues, “Meanwhile businesses locally remain committed to doing what they can to support communities, for example by providing online services, click and collect and deliveries.

"Throughout the county various accommodation providers are remaining open for key workers or providing food for those that are shielding.

"Every day I am amazed by the stories of kindness and generosity I hear and whenever an ask is made of them, be it to adapt their business or provide specific support to help communities, they are always quick to do so.

“Cumbrians have equally shown the sector tremendous support over the last 10 months and that has been invaluable and hugely appreciated by the business community. Whether it has been visiting an attraction, eating out to help out, using local public transport, buying from local suppliers, shopping locally at Christmas, it is that working together and helping each other that has really been one of my abiding positive memories of the last year. Continued support for Cumbrian businesses and Cumbrian jobs is absolutely vital right now and perhaps that’s one new year’s resolution we can all keep."