Cumbria’s official tourism body has secured Government funding to help business with their preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit.

Cumbria Tourism has secured the £26,000 grant from the Business Readiness Fund, which it will used to fund a major conference offering advice and support along with workshops and online resources to help businesses involved in the county’s visitor economy.

The activities are designed to help business overcome the three major issues identified by research undertaken by Cumbria Tourism; the recruitment and retention of migrant workers, ensuring European visitors are welcomed and offered advise on travel arrangement, and changes to financial and data protection arrangements.

As it stands, Britain is due to leave the European Union on October 31.

The ‘Are you ready for Brexit?’ conference will take place at the Low Wood Bay Resort and Spa, Windermere, just days before the departure date on Tuesday, October 29, to give delegates access to experts across a range of sectors.

It will also hold two customer-service workshops for front-end staff – such as receptionists, concierges, and bar and restaurant staff – and provide additional help and supports through webinars, targeted newsletters, a new microsite, public relations and social media.

Tourism leaders have expressed fears over the impact of Brexit on the county’s £3 billion a year visitor economy, in particular the impact on migrant workers from the EU.

Cumbria Tourism’s managing director, Gill Haigh, said: “No-one knows for sure whether Brexit will take place on October 31 as the Government plans, and whether that will be with a formal EU agreement – or without one.

“With this continuing uncertainty, it is essential that businesses are as prepared as they can be for the different scenarios, so they can remain strong and competitive for the future.”

The organisation’s recently elected president Eric Robson has been particularly vocal on current Government proposals that would require EU workers to earn more than £30,000 to stay in the UK longer term post-Brexit.

And while it is understood to be considering lowering the wage threshold to £22,500, it is still way above the average wage in hospitality for the region, which stands at £17,000.

Around 20,000 of the county’s tourism 65,000-strong workforce is made up of non-UK citizens, with the vast majority from Europe.

“We know from past experience that Cumbria’s tourism businesses are resilient, but tackling Brexit-related concerns around labour supply, recruitment and skills are fundamental to the future success of our visitor economy,” said Mr Robson.

“Operators are already facing challenges around rising overhead costs and changing consumer habits, so Cumbria Tourism has a vital role to play in helping businesses make sense of the additional challenges – and opportunities – in the days ahead.”