THE latest government restrictions will bring additional challenges for the area's tourism industry, sector representatives have said.

Cumbria Tourism reports a collective loss of £1.5billion in revenue from the county's tourism and hospitality industry owing to Covid-19 this year.

Heading into a challenging winter period, the area's tourism body said that businesses in the area are operating on average at just 75 per cent capacity compared to their pre-Covid rate.

Reacting to the Prime Minister’s statement this week, the organisation's managing director, Gill Haigh, said: “The priority, of course, is keeping everyone safe.

"But with Boris Johnson warning that the latest restrictions could last another six months – alongside the imminent end of the furlough scheme - there are real concerns about the long-term negative impact for businesses as they head into the traditionally quieter winter months. We continue to urge the Government to listen to our calls for financial intervention to support the industry.

“Tourism businesses have already worked incredibly hard over the last couple of months to adapt, innovate and ensure they can provide COVID-safe environments, by taking a wide range of precautions to not only protect staff and customers, but also to provide a strong visitor experience. We know they will continue adapting and some of the new rules, for instance on face coverings, may actually provide additional reassurance for visitors.

“That said, we had previously been moving towards more relaxed measures for events, conferences and weddings, so it is disappointing that tighter restrictions are being enforced on the size of weddings. Many venues have put a huge amount of time and effort into making weddings viable, so this will be a big blow for them.

“Even before these new restrictions were announced, our latest business tracker research showed that average spend is significantly down and business confidence is plummeting.

It is now clear that the tourism industry will continue to be impacted for many months to come and our renewed calls for financial support to help jobs, businesses and customers through the challenging winter period are more critical than ever.”

South Lakes MP Tim Farron has made the case for an extension of financial aid to help ailing businesses in the county remain viable this winter.

He said: “The hospitality and tourism industry employs 60,000 people in Cumbria – continuing to support them is not only the right thing to do by those people but the right thing to do for our country’s economy.

“It’s important to remember that not supporting these jobs and businesses is more expensive to the taxpayer because if you let them go to the wall then there will be huge costs in benefits and in lost revenue.

“By not supporting them it also means that all the billions that the Government has spent on keeping these businesses afloat so far will be money down the drain.

“I want the Government to back local hospitality and tourism jobs and businesses through winter so that, come Spring. they can go out on the front foot and be a major part of the economic recovery.”