Tourists are being urged not to return to the Lake District yet despite the Government dropping its Stay At Home slogan.
Prime minister Boris Johnson eased the coronavirus lockdown in England last night when he addressed the nation on TV, his “conditional plan” to reopen society allowing people to spend more time outdoors from Wednesday.
But the move caught Cumbria Tourism by surprise, with managing director Gill Haigh asking people “to continue to remain at home”, while her caution was shared by the Lake District National Park Authority, which highlighted the county’s high coronavirus infection rate.
Richard Leafe, the LDNPA’s chief executive, said today: “Following the Government’s announcement that people will be able to travel for exercise from Wednesday, we know that many will be keen to visit the Lake District. This is understandable for the many physical and mental health benefits the national park provides.
“However, sadly Cumbria currently has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the UK, therefore keeping our staff and local communities safe must remain our priority. For example, our mountain rescue teams are made up of volunteers, many of whom work in the NHS and other frontline professions, so we cannot afford to put unnecessary pressure on them.
“So for now, we’re asking people not to rush back to the Lake District. Help protect our communities. The fells will still be here when this passes. Campsites, hotels, restaurants and many businesses across the Lake District remain closed. When the time is right, we look forward to welcoming visitors back to the Lake District.”
Mr Leafe said the LDNPA had been working with partners to put measures in place that will help keep people safe, such as new car park information and availability to help plan ahead. He added: “For now, we ask everyone who lives in and visits the Lake District to act responsibly, continue to observe social distancing and stay safe.”
Cumbria Tourism was also continuing to urge visitors to stay away despite estimating that the drastic measure will have cost the county’s tourist industry £1.45 billion by the end of this month. Ms Haigh said: “We welcome the Government’s planned ‘roadmap’ to recovery and Cumbria Tourism will continue its vigorous efforts to ensure businesses receive the ongoing government support that is absolutely critical. However, with Cumbria continuing to have one of the highest incidences of coronavirus per head of population and a high number of older residents, the safety of local residents must take absolute top priority, along with a collective responsibility to help protect Cumbria’s NHS workers.”
She called on the Government to work with Cumbria Tourism to safeguard jobs and the economy of the county. She added: “We were genuinely surprised by the Government announcement regarding travel to destinations for exercise and whilst we await further detail and clarity on this announcement today – and we look forward to seeing our visitors return when the time is right – for now our tourism businesses remain closed and Cumbria Tourism asks for everyone to continue to remain at home.”
Cumbria Tourism has more than 2,500 members. Its latest figures show that more than 47 million people visited Cumbria in 2018, contributing more than £3 billion to the local economy and supporting almost 65,000 jobs, the majority of them in the Lake District.