Hospitality businesses in Cumbria are at their biggest threat of going out of business due to “three-winter syndrome”, a leading Lakes businesswoman has said.

Several business figures in Keswick have spoken about the struggle the tourism-centred town faces with its main industry missing out on its most lucrative period of the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

Cumbria Tourism is lobbying the government to provide more vital financial support for the county’s hospitality and tourism businesses to help them survive through winter, with only 50 per cent believing they can last another six months according to a recent survey.

Anne Cornthwaite, chair of Keswick Tourism Association, runs Ashness Farm B&B in Borrowdale and feels it is “a scary time for the hospitality industry” and is concerned that the outlining date of July 4 will get pushed back by a couple of weeks, in the same manner as happened to shops earlier this month.

She said: “We are looking at this as the three-winter syndrome –usually the hospitality sector relies on summer to get us through but this summer has now become another winter. Businesses will need some further support to survive.

“The talk is about how we can all re-open but it is like starting from scratch as we will have to market ourselves very differently. A lot of businesses, especially hotels, rely on international visitors who travel over and will have to completely change their offering to fit a more domestic market.

“Cumbria Tourism is wanting to push staycations but we need a lot more clarity and detail from the government before that is possible. There is talk of the two-metre distancing rule being brought down to one-metre, which would be really helpful, as at the moment most restaurants would only be able to operate at 30 per cent and they would lose money but it being reduced could make capacity increase to 70 per cent and become feasible.

“We also don’t know if rooms will have to be empty for a period of time between guests as that has been spoken about or if you need to keep a room empty between two other filled bedrooms.

“Currently we’ve been told crockery will have to be washed at 80 degrees when domestic dish washers only go up to 60 and sheets at 60 – what is wrong with 40? There just seems to be no need for some of the suggested things and now it seems the government are lying low while they focus on the non-key shops reopening and football starting. But hospitality is a huge industry and the sooner we can get clarity the better.

“None of this is a giveaway, the treasury are hemorrhaging money and the government will be looking to get as much back as they can. There are still so many holes, there still appears to be no support that suits people who run self-catering accommodation.”

Anne confirmed that she was one of several business leaders to raise their concerns to Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, and agrees with others such as Julia McCumisky who feels it will be a struggle to attract visitors with food outlets and recreation facilities closed.

Julia, owner of Tarn Hows Guest House, believes they need mortgages to continue to be frozen until spring next year and further financial support otherwise many could close.

She said: “The early self-employed grant was useful to help us get through the first few months but that won’t help at all for winter and we will have to start re-paying our mortgage again in November.

“Some have got it worse than us, I know several who have been running their guest houses for under a year and then can’t claim the grant either and those are the ones that I think won’t be able to get through this and out the other side.

“We are trying to stay positive but it is very stressful for everyone at the moment and the government could do, even in not making banks it owns like RBS charge interest on mortgages while repayments are frozen, which is what is happening to us.

“There isn’t enough information for us to be able to reopen and be able to reassure all concerns. With restaurants and pubs closed we might have to allow people to bring takeaways into the breakfast dining area or even their rooms, and that presents a whole host of problems.”

Stephen Macaulay, chair of Penrith of Trade, has confirmed they’ve also been helping a number of B&Bs who are struggling, south Lakes MP Tim Farron has launched a petition with Cumbria Tourism calling for the government to give further support to the hospitality sector, and Cumbria Tourism has also launched a ‘think local’ campaign encouraging customers to shop at Cumbrian companies who are struggling.