One year on: How the pandemic has impacted Cumbria's hospitality industry

  • Video report by Fiona MarleyPatterson

One of the industries hit hardest over the last year is hospitality.

Back in March 2020, many hotels, restaurants and pubs were forced to close overnight with uncertainty as to when they would be able to open again.

With a date for reopening now in sight, ITV Border has been speaking to several businesses in the Lake District about what's been a challenging year.

James Ratcliffe, The Black Bull. Credit: ITV News

The Black Bull in Sedbergh opened in 2018. James Ratcliffe, the Sedbergh Hotel Enterprises Managing Director, said:"The first two weeks of that first lockdown were the hardest.

"Luckily we had a very busy summer last year, which has helped us through the second lockdown and the third lockdown, but it's still tough especially over the Christmas period.

"We had no choice but to prep-up and be ready for New Year's Eve because we had guests that were expecting to come.

"We've managed to make some changes from it, I think we've become a smarter business but emotionally that closing and opening it takes its toll."

Credit: ITV News

Hospitality is the county's second largest employer and it has been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

South Lakeland - where half that tourism revenue is generated - had the highest rate of furlough in the country and now unemployment is following suit.

Three times as many South Cumbrians were unemployed this February than last. That's at least 13,000 Cumbrians now without a job.

Artisan bakery in Kendal. Credit: ITV News

But while some of those are in businesses that have taken a huge financial hit, others are because they've innovated.

Aidan Monks, who owns Lovingly Artisan in Kendal, told ITV Border: "We used to have 25 staff we had to make half of those people redundant.

"The furlough is fantastic but actually it sort of masked the reality that the business had shrunk and the jobs within the business had changed.

"We used to have to make up cash floats for all the markets and for here but we don't deal in cash anymore, everything's by card, we don't have to go to the bank anymore. We know that change is going to be permanent."

Lake Windermere Credit: PA

Many businesses have weathered the Covid-19 storm well. The Old Stamp House in Ambleside made its usual profit despite only being open half the year.

Owner Ryan Blackburn said: "You kind of set off with a blind panic and a worry about what's going to happen? Will we ever reopen our restaurant again?

"And then once we got the green light to reopen last Summer, Ambleside just exploded and we were the busiest we've ever been.

"On the back of this it will change the way I run my business regarding hours of work, when we take holidays, it's taken the fear of closing the restaurant away slightly."

Credit: ITV News

Outdoor hospitality including pubs could reopen as early as April 12, with indoor hospitality opening no earlier than May 17.

Self-contained holidays within the UK could be permitted as early as April 12, as well as indoor leisure facilities such as gyms, plus hairdressers and non-essential retail.