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Hospitality battles on after flooding in Cumbria

27 November 2009
Hospitality battles on after flooding in Cumbria

Cumbria's hospitality industry is counting the cost of last week's devastating floods, which forced hundreds of operators to abandon their businesses and is estimated to run into tens of millions of pounds-worth of damage.

Parts of Cumbria were battered by unprecedented torrential downpours last Thursday, which caused the most severe flooding in the county's history and saw bridges collapse, roads closed and hundreds of properties destroyed as well as two deaths.

Hospitality businesses affected included the Whitewater Hotel & Leisure Club in Lakeland Village, which was forced to close and evacuate its 30 guests to a nearby function hall after the River Leven burst its banks.

The 34-bedroom hotel, which stands on the banks of the river, suffered extensive damage to its bar, restaurant and kitchens - all of which had been refurbished earlier this year - after being submerged under five feet of water.

Operations manager James Beech told Caterer that the force of the water had been "like a tornado".

"There was absolutely nothing we could have done to prepare for this," he said.

However, Beech added that he was determined the hotel would be up and running again as soon as possible. "We have half of our accommodation and a Christmas party for 80 booked at the weekend and we intend to be operational for all our guests," he said.

Among other hotels to close as a result of the floods were the 75-bedroom Lakeside hotel on Lake Windermere and the 52-bedroom Swan hotel at Newby Bridge. As well as suffering major water damage, all power and telephone lines to these properties were disconnected.

The Newby Bridge hotel, which overlooks Lake Windermere, was not directly impacted by flood water but helped other, less-fortunate businesses in the region. Operations manager Suzanne Varden said that local rivalry disappeared during the crisis: "We've taken in guests and provided other hotels with food. Everyone mucks in and we all help each other."

Ian Stephens, chief executive at Cumbria Tourism said that while officials were surveying its 3,000 members, the organisation anticipated that about 200-250 tourism businesses would have been affected by the flooding.

"We estimate that the damage will run into tens of millions of pounds," he said. "We anticipate that the majority of businesses in the outlying areas that have been affected will be open again within a matter of a few weeks. However, the recovery process in the Cockermouth area, which was worst affected, will take many months."

Stephens called on visitors to continue to support the county's vital tourism industry during this difficult time to ensure that businesses, lives, and infrastructure could be rebuilt.

Venetian hotels launch flood-linked incentives >>

Insurers accused of delaying compensation after floods >>

Government urged to give tax break to flood hit hospitality operators >>

By Caterer Reporters

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