Efforts to disperse tourists throughout Cumbria are working, according to two leading figures in the industry.

The “attract and disperse” approach of luring visitors to the honeypot areas of the central and north Lakes and then encourage them to venture to quieter areas, such as Cumbria’s west coast, Furness Peninsula and Carlisle, has been high on Cumbria Tourism’s agenda for decades.

And while some areas of Cumbria feel they have been left behind by the Lake District’s growing popularity, Ian Stephens, former managing director of Cumbria Tourism now professor of practice at the University of Cumbria, believes latest figures show the tactic is working.

According to the latest data from the Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor, better known as STEAM, just under half (£1.49 billion) of the £3 billion generated by tourism in the county in 2019 was in the Lake District National Part boundary.

Just under 19.5 million people visited the Lake District in 2019 compared to the 47m who journeyed to Cumbria.

At a district level, £558 million was generated in Carlisle, which welcomed just over nine million visitors while Eden, Barrow and Copeland also saw growth in revenue and tourist numbers.

“It has worked, if you look at the stats,” said Mr Stephens.

“It depends on how you define it and perhaps some of the public bodies out there have a narrow view of it.

“There are all sorts of things that are happening around the county that demonstrates the visitor economy is active, but it is not all the same.

“The view people should have is that there’s more visitor spending, events that didn’t happen before, more caravan park or lodge provision, or there is more self-catering provision, more marina development and so on.

“There is a different type of visitor economy and different type of tourism that happens outside the Lakes. I think that’s why there’s a misconception and misinterpretation that attract and disperse has not worked. It has dispersed, but not in a uniform way.”

Mr Stephens added: “We (the university) firmly believe there are opportunities in every part of the county – on the coast, in the north, the hills of the east.

“It is not just what is happening in Bowness or Ambleside. The visitor economy can benefit the most remote communities in the county.”

Both Barrow and Copeland have revealed their ambition to increase their share of Cumbria’s vast tourism economy.

A new Tourism Task Force for Furness is set to develop ways it can lure more visitors through both the Lake District and Morecambe Bay brands – building on its already hugely successful business tourism industry, fuelled largely by the BAE Systems Submarines facility in Barrow.

Copeland, which is home to huge sections of the Lake District National Park, has also held several events to develop plans to lure visitors to the district and recently appointed a dedicated tourism development officer.

Tourism generated £123m in Barrow and £183m in Copeland, putting them at the bottom of the list of Cumbria’s six districts, behind Eden (£365m) and Allerdale (£469m).

South Lakeland – home to honeypot areas around Windermere and Coniston Water, as well as Kendal and the majority of the county’s Morecambe Bay coast – remains head and shoulders above the rest, with £1.3bn of the total when broken down to district level.

Dr Angela Anthonisz, principal lecturer in tourism management at the university, said areas outside the Lake District – which became a World Heritage Site in 2017 – needed to work hard to boost their appeal to visitors.

“The thing to consider is that tourism doesn’t just happen – there’s got to be a reason for people to go to a place,” she said.

“If you want more tourism you have got to think about how you invest in that offer and that product to create an appeal.

“I think that investment has started but there are a number of areas where it is very evidently not in place, where people have to think about why people aren’t coming – is it because there’s not enough green spaces, restaurants, accommodation – and then develop their offer accordingly.

“The Lake District National Park has been very fortunate because it has that appeal due to its natural resources, and the resulting investment has helped create a positive cycle of development. I think it is taking a little while for the rest of Cumbria to catch up.”

Dr Anthonisz also believes that improvements to the county’s transport network would also have a significant impact.

Cumbria needs an integrated transport system that facilitates being able to get around the county easily,” she says.

“Given the new clean growth agenda and the need for more sustainable management of destinations, people need to get together and come up with a transport solution for the county that is cleaner, more sustainable, more accessible.

“That would make a massive difference in terms of the distribution of the industry.”

Dr Anthonisz and Mr Stephens are the driving force behind several new courses that have been introduced by the University of Cumbria and delivered from its campus in Ambleside, to upskill the county’s tourism and hospitality workforce.

Working with the industry, the university hopes to propel people up the career ladder while at the same time pave the way for a new generation to take up opportunities in the industry.

It will also launch the UK’s first postgraduate MBA in tourism management in September 2020 to help students from Cumbria, the UK and overseas on their journey to the highest-level jobs the sector can offer.

Learn more about the courses and how the University of Cumbria is aiming to develop the county’s tourism workforce by viewing the latest edition of in-Cumbria, available to read online at https://www.in-cumbria.com/magazines/.