THE tourism economy has more than halved in Cumbria - with over £1.5bn lost so far this year.

Cumbria Tourism says more than half of the value of the county's £3bn sector has been lost already this year, with many jobs and businesses suffering from the effects of coronavirus.

"The impact will be felt for a long time," explained Gill Haigh, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism.

"We have lost businesses already. So far this year, in a £3bn sector, more than half of the value has been lost.

"We've had jobs lost, specialist businesses lost and some businesses will decide that is it and won't be coming back.

"Some will be assessing how they will manage to get through before they make a decision on next year."

Mrs Haigh is encouraging people in Cumbria to do their bit to support the local economy.

"Cumbria is not made up of multi-national companies, it is made up of small, often family businesses," she said. "They really put first-class customer experience at the heart of what they do.

"Each are really respected in the industry as a whole and it is sad to see them struggling.

"What we can do to support the tourism sector is buy local, visit local, eat out to help out, have business meetings in local hotels, buy Christmas presents locally.

"There are lots of things that we can do to support the tourism industry. I ask people to think about how they can support businesses because these are local jobs, local amenities which make Cumbria such a fantastic place to live with fantastic shops, pubs, restaurants and cultural sites."

The managing director says it's difficult to predict what will happen next.

"We understand international tourism won't return to normal levels in England until 2024.

"Tour operators have been absolutely decimated by Covid-19.

"It's really difficult to say, but what we can say is some businesses will be able to survive and come back. Certainly some haven't and some won't."

She said businesses are still coming to terms with what the latest package of support from the Government means for their business.