Is the Lake District open for business this spring? The pictures that hit our television screens during last November's floods suggested that this holiday spot faced a formidable recovery job.
Indeed, Cumbria Tourism reports that in the weeks after the floods, the region was hit by a huge number of cancellations – even in areas that were unaffected by rising water. Prospects of a cosy Christmas break in the Lakes suddenly suffered a distinct chill – closures and loss of bookings are estimated to have cost the county £2.5m.
In the face of the floods, the local tourist authority set up a dedicated helpline aimed at reassuring those with plans to visit the county that much of it was open for business, and to help arrange alternative accommodation for those that were affected by flooding. "Calls were coming in from all over the world, inquiring whether it would be safe to visit this spring and whether rooms would still be damp at this point," explains Julie Darroch of Cumbria Tourism.
With the help of the North West Regional Development Agency, £150,000 has been pumped into local tourism's marketing coffers. The mission statement "Open For Business" was adopted for the winter season, backed by a special-offer campaign that was free for local tourism providers to take part in. This season the rather calmer motto "Business As Usual" confirms that bookings are on the up for spring – by more than 12 per cent on the same period in 2009 according to tourist board figures.
But then the Lakes have been quick to drive tourist traffic back to their glorious part of the world. In January, 860-plus bookings were taken for a special Sunday night rate of £9.99 per person that was offered for a choice of 200 rooms across the county. From today, those Sunday-night specials will rise to a still affordable rate of £29.99 per person (see golakes. reader.travel).
Still, some areas are finding the return to normal to be a protracted process. Cockermouth, which usually thrives on the fact that it was the birthplace of Wordsworth, was worst hit by the floods. "Many of the retail outlets on Main Street are still closed," says Ms Darroch, "though many of the retailers have moved to alternative premises throughout the town. Wordsworth House will be open as planned on 13 March, complete with a new flood exhibition in the cellars. And the Trout Hotel, which was the main hotel to be damaged, is aiming to be open again in early June.
"The bi-annual Georgian Fair is still going ahead as planned on 1 May – which sees the town transformed back to its Georgian heyday with period costume, sedan chair racing, Cumberland wrestling and more."
If you're planning a staycation in 2010, the Lake District may be a worthy, as well as a beautiful, choice of destination in which to spend your tourist pounds.
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