THE first ever tourism summit focused on Copeland will take place next week with businesses leaders pledging to help secure a bigger slice of the county’s £2.9billion visitor economy for the district.

The Copeland Tourism Summit features several high-profile speakers who will showcase the “outstanding” opportunities for the sector and as well as make commitments towards increasing tourism in the borough.

They include Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, Copeland MP Trudy Harrison MP, Steve Ratcliffe, director of sustainable development at the Lake District National Park Authority, Peter Frost-Pennington, director of Muncaster Castle and Copeland Council executive director Julie Betteridge.

The summit – which takes place at St Bees Management Centre on Friday, February 15 – will be hosted by Copeland mayor Mike Starkie, and comes as the council maps out a new tourism strategy.

It has already invested £75,000 in a new tourist information centre at The Beacon on Whitehaven’s harbourside, and is eyeing up further “satellite” centres across the borough.

Mr Starkie said: “There is a huge opportunity for Copeland to enjoy a greater share of the tourism industry, and we want to encourage as many people as possible to explore our outstanding tourism offer.

“Complemented by our soon-to-be-opened Tourist Information Hub for Copeland, the summit will bring partners together to focus attention on our borough, our attractions and our hospitality industry to jointly highlight Copeland as the jewel in the area’s crown.”

Mrs Haigh said that Copeland was proving to be increasingly popular, with 3.62 million visitors venturing to the borough in 2017 - an increase of 4.6 per cent on the previous year.

She said: “This reflects Cumbria Tourism’s continuing ‘attract and disperse’ policy, utilising the strength of the Lake District brand to draw people in and encouraging them to discover and explore the exceptional offer of the wider county.”