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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Cumbria can benefit from London 2012 Olympics, claims Government minister

Jeremy Hunt was in Cumbria yesterday to reassure businesses that the Olympics would bring lasting benefits to the region despite being based more than 200 miles away.

Jeremy Hunt photo
Jeremy Hunt

He said the Games would not bleed profit away from the local businesses into the capital with visitors tempted to avoid the Lakes and head for London.

Addressing more than 100 hoteliers, businesses and tourism bodies in Penrith as part of a national tour, the Secretary for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport said that the region was one of the most stunning parts of the country and that there were big wins to be had in 2012 for the region’s tourism industry in particular.

He also announced that Cumbria would benefit from major international and national marketing campaigns to promote UK tourism and urged local tourism firms to sign up to a new 20.12 per cent discount scheme set up to encourage Brits to visit the attractions on their own doorsteps rather than jetting off abroad.

His visit follows this week’s announcement of the Olympic torch route and kicks off a campaign to help all parts of the country make the most of tourism, cultural and business opportunities centred around the games.

Mr Hunt said: “Last year 40 million visitors came to Cumbria, bringing £2bn to the local economy. Next year, we can do even better.

“We have a once-in-a-generation chance to show the world the very best of Cumbria, from the stunning scenery of the Solway Coast and The Lakes, to cultural and historic sites like Dove Cottage [at Grasmere] and Tullie House [in Carlisle], and Michelin-starred restaurants like Holbeck Ghyll [at Windermere] and Sharrow Bay [at Ullswater].

“And with so much going on, including the Lakes Alive spectacular on Windermere, 2012 is the perfect time for us to holiday at home. That’s why I’m working with VisitEngland on a new 20.12 per cent discount scheme to encourage more people to experience the delights of Cumbria and other parts of the UK.

“Lots of household names are already signed up and I urge tourism businesses to get on board as well.”

The boost for local businesses will come in part from a £20m grant from the Regional Growth Fund to promote domestic tourism but an additional £4m has also been pledged for the campaign itself.

Mr Hunt later visited the Richard Rose Academy in Carlisle along with wheelchair basketball player Mark Fosbrook who talked about the importance of inspiring the athletes of the future through initiatives like the School Games competition designed to encourage youngsters to get more involved in sport.

Meanwhile, members of the Cumbrian tourist and hospitality industries along with representatives from the Cumbrian businesses welcomed the Olympics as a boon for the area.

They said that countywide events planned for the run-up to the to Games could boost business and that the games could have knock-on benefits as foreign visitors extended their stay to explore what else Britain has to offer.

Sue Tudhope, sales manger at the Hallmark Hotel in Carlisle, said: “I feel quite positive about it in that I don’t think overseas travellers will just go to the Olympics.

“They will be travelling to the honeypots of the Lake District and Edinburgh and stopping off for somewhere to eat.

“Hadrian’s Wall will be a big pull for people coming to the Olympics and many visitors may want to extend their time in England.

“If I was going to the Olympics in Australia, even if events were happening four hours from Sydney, I would still have gone there to visit.

“I would like to think we would pick up some business and see an increase in third-party bookings through Last Minute and Expedia because those [websites] get quite a lot of foreign inbound travellers.

“It would be good to think we would get some passing trade but it is just a case of suck it and see.”

She added that Carlisle was also well-situated in terms of transport links but that the situation could be different for more rural hotels and guesthouses.

A series of events are also planned for the run-up to the Olympics.

In June next year the Olympic torch will travel through Carlisle, Wigton, Aspatria, Maryport, Flimby, Workington, Whitehaven, Cockermouth, and Keswick before heading to the south of the county.

Carlisle has also been chosen as one of only 66 locations in the UK to have an evening celebration, which will be held on June 20.

The 70-day relay will start at Land’s End on May 19 before travelling an estimated 8,000 miles around the UK, giving thousands of communities and individuals a chance to witness its progress.

On the final day of the relay the flame will travel down the River Thames as it makes its way to the Olympic Stadium for the games’ opening ceremony.

Other events in Cumbria to celebrate the run-up to the Games include an art installation at several places along the length of Hadrian’s Wall, which will be in place from June 21 until September 9, and a Lakes Alive pyrotechnic display from Les Commandos Percu following the arrival of the torch at Lake Windermere on June 21.

Suzanne Caldwell, head of communications for Cumbria Chamber of Trade, believes the Olympics will boost business in Cumbria.

She added that there were events scheduled for Cumbria, including June’s torch relay and accommodation for team training camps which could help the visitor economy.

“There are going to be opportunities further afield and anything that places the UK on the map and puts it in people’s minds will encourage people to consider areas like Cumbria as possible holiday destinations.”

Brian Trengrove, chairman of Cockermouth Chamber of Trade, said the town would plan a series of events to coincide with the arrival of the Olympic Torch in June.

He said: “It is only 36 hours since we discovered the route of the torch but it happens during the Cockermouth Festival.

“We are going to have some [additional] celebrations on June 21 to tie in with that event and everyone is very excited about the torch coming to us.

“It is good for morale for the whole country and it’s up for the traders who are concerned to maximise the publicity and spin-off from the games.”

Speaking at the Richard Rose Academy, Mr Hunt said: “Next year, for the first time, in a generation and the last time for many years, the country is in the global spotlight and we have to seize the opportunity.

“If you talk to people in France they would give their right arm to have the same chance.”

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