Visitor warning by Cumbria Tourism chief

Lake District
Image caption There are fears Cumbria could lose out in the tourism stakes

Cumbria could lose out to Scotland, Wales and Ireland in terms of future visitor numbers, the county's tourism chief has warned.

The axing of the North West Regional Development Agency will end its annual £1.3m donation to Cumbria Tourism.

Chief executive, Ian Stephens, said this would lead to a reduction in the advertising and marketing of the area.

Tourism employs one in seven people in Cumbria and generates £1.1 billion for the local economy.

Mr Stephens is due to address a meeting of tourism businesses on Wednesday.

He will warn them that rival destinations like Scotland, Ireland and Wales receive direct funding from their respective governments and will spend millions of pounds on advertising and marketing their areas.

'Fingers crossed'

"Make no mistake, these areas are gearing up to make massive in-roads into Cumbria's market share," he said.

"They want our advertising space on London Underground stations, our coverage in the travel sections of national newspapers, and ultimately your customers through their doors."

He will be urging businesses to "invest" in Cumbria, and stressing the importance of promotion.

"It would be foolhardy in the extreme if this area thinks it can cross its fingers and hope that visitors will come back again next year.

"Tourism has changed radically in five years and there is too much competition out there to kid ourselves that customers will sleepwalk their way back to the Lakes if we don't maintain the profile of our competitors."

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