THE chairman of Cumbria Tourism has reflected on the devastation caused to Cumbria's tourism economy by the foot and mouth and current Covid-19 crises.

Twenty years ago the foot and mouth epidemic costed the county’s economy millions of pounds as visitors stopped visiting the area.

But, Chairman of Cumbria Tourism, Jim Walker, said he believes the current pandemic will leave Cumbria’s tourism industry in far greater financial ruin compared to what it experienced in 2001.

Covid-19 has already lost Cumbria's tourism economy £2billion.

“Foot and mouth disease devastated Cumbria’s rural communities," said Mr Walker.

“As well as the overwhelming effects on agriculture, tourism was badly impacted as visitors stopped coming and businesses lost millions of pounds.

“It also took a tremendous emotional toll, as the crisis was deeply felt not only by individuals and families, but across whole communities.

“There are some parallels between the foot and mouth crisis and the current pandemic, as it shows how susceptible tourism is to external factors.

"However, the scale and geography of the two situations are different.

“Foot and mouth was centred specifically on rural locations and overall cost the nation around £8billion.

"This is a massive figure, but when you compare it to the £2billion already lost specifically by the tourism industry in 2020 – in our county alone - you can see how far-reaching the impact of COVID-19 continues to be."

Mr Walker warned that the county's 'bounce-back' from Covid-19 would be 'trickier' than its reinvention twenty years ago.

“Following foot and mouth, 2002 proved to be a much more positive year for tourism, as visitors returned and the industry bounced back," he said.

“The bounce-back from coronavirus may be trickier to negotiate, as the repeated ‘stop go’ nature of restrictions makes the situation more complex.

“A lot will depend on continued, and consistent, government support to help businesses and customers to plan with confidence."