If you happened to be watching BBC North West on the evening of Tuesday 23rd of April, it’s quite possible that you spotted Lakelovers on the BBC. However, unlike a lot of our previous news coverage about tourism in the Lake District, the recent attention was not entirely positive. The BBC were examining the possibility that the Lake District’s thriving tourist industry was damaging life for the local inhabitants, making it difficult for them to find affordable housing, especially rented accommodation.
As a tourist destination, in 2009 the United Kingdom attracted a shade under 30 million foreign tourist visitors (source), each staying for an average of just over a week. In the same year, nearly 16 million people arrived on the shores of some of the most beautiful lakes in the world and spent nearly £1,000 million while they were here. The tourism industry provided around 11,500 full time equivalent jobs to service this throng of visitors (source).
Despite this however, there are some who have raised concerns for the local residents of the Lake District, with worries about affordable local housing being available for the small army of service workers required to handle the tourist season. At Lakelovers, one of our primary concerns is the welfare of the local area and the people who live there. Part of the popularity of Britain (it’s the 7th most popular tourist destination in the world (source)) is the friendliness of the inhabitants, and it’s one of the many things we love about the place.
While it is true that there are areas in the Lake District which exceed the recommended level of 20% of houses being made up of secondary/holiday homes, there are schemes and plans in place to combat this, there are many challenges on the road to affordable housing.
One of the biggest challenges cited by builders and project managers who have tried to enact upon the need for more low-priced housing in the district is the locals themselves. Residents are swift to protest any new development, as they aren’t keen on having any more houses around their own.
So while there are some negative aspects to tourism being the major industry in the Lake District, there are is also an abundance of positives For example, there are multiple Michelin Star rated restaurants in the Lake District, established to cater to rich holiday-goers. These in turn support many aspects of the local community. Many of the top class restaurants pride themselves on sourcing all their ingredients locally. They also increase demand for locally brewed alcohol to stock their bars, and whilst not everyone can be a Michelin Starred chef, these industries require a lot of hands to run smoothly, ranging from sous chefs to admin staff.
It is also often the case that areas such as the Lake District, and other places which are classified as areas of outstanding natural beauty, receive a lot of visitors who simply want to enjoy the countryside and wildlife, and get out of the city for some time. This puts pressure on local authorities to continue to maintain the environment and ecology and put sustainable development as one of their key concerns.
The local economy also benefits hugely from tourism, with retail, entertainment and the local infrastructure all seeing significant boosts from tourism.
With the economy just barely managing to avoid the triple-dip recession, the figures plainly state that businesses capable of generating and sustaining this level of high quality tourism are what we need to stimulate the local economy. As local business owners prepare for the summer months, and peak season, everyone is hoping that the Olympics succeeded in raising the profile of Britain internationally, and the year will be a successful one.