The dramatic images of collapsed bridges, flooded high streets, houses marooned by water accurately depicted an unprecedented major disaster which has dominated recent headlines.
Yet were anyone to visit today, as I did, you would quickly appreciate that those striking images are already out of date. Thanks to the resilience and determination of the local communities combined with that very British trait of muscling together in the most adverse of challenges almost all the shops have reopened, hotels are back in business and the roads and transport infrastructure, other than a couple of exceptions, are completely back to normal.
Sadly though, the cameras have all departed and the media teams moved on. Yet the nation’s perception remains that the Lake District is still underwater. The floods in Cumbria were national news, but the success of the cleanup operation is not. Until those images are replaced with a more positive message tourism in Cumbria will continue to be adversely affected.
This is why the Prime Minister must honour his commitment to support Cumbria in its hour of need. This does not just mean sending in the Army to build a Bailey Bridge, but providing vital funds to promote the Lake District and prevent cancellations to bookings which could easily cost the local economy more than the damage from the actual floods.
The importance of tourism to the area cannot be overstated. Listed by the Lonely Planet guide as the ‘tenth MUST SEE’ places to visit, the Lake District is Britain’s favourite National Park, with over 15m visitors a year it generates over £1bn for the economy.
This is Cumbria’s hour of need and Government must help in communicating the message: It is very much open for business.