After more than 20 years, the return of commercial flights to Carlisle airport is expected to significantly increase the number of tourists coming to Cumbria. Passenger flights are due to commence from June 2018 from airports including Southend, Dublin and Belfast. It will be the first time Carlisle Lake District airport has been used for commercial flights since 1993. Currently the airport is mostly used for flight training and local sightseeing trips.
In recent years, Cumbria has enjoyed a steady increase in tourism. During 2016 visitor numbers rose by 5% and in 2017 the Lake District gained world heritage status. Hadrian’s Wall, just north of Carlisle, has recently celebrated 30 years as a world heritage site. In 2016 the Cumbria area received 45 million visitors, of which 39 million of those people were day-trippers and the other 6 million stayed for longer periods. Tourism brought in £2.72 billion to the county’s economy in 2016 and helped to ensure the employment of over 36,000 people.
The airport, owned by the Stobart Group, is 40 miles north of Keswick, in the heart of the Lake District, and 50 miles from Kendal. “If you look at the tourism in this area” said Andrew Tinkler, Stobart’s CEO “it’s massive, probably second biggest after London, so I think through the summer it’d be very busy”.
The development is supported by the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, which has committed £4.95m of funding to help make improvements to the airport’s runway and terminal building.
The Chair of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership Visitor Economy Advisory Group, Nigel Wilkinson, said: “Carlisle Lake District Airport will have a huge impact on Cumbria’s visitor economy. Increasing the numbers of high spending international visitors is a key target within the LEP’s Rural and Visitor Economy Growth Plan. We welcome the opportunity to work with Stobart Aviation to ensure the airport works within the context of the visitor economy.”
The airport opened in the 1930’s as an RAF base before being sold to local authorities in 1960. It had several owners before the Stobart Group acquired the site. Previous attempts to establish passenger flights from the airport have been largely unsuccessful. In the 1940s, 60s, 80s and 90s connections were launched to destinations such as Belfast and London but all were short lived.
Manchester is the closest airport to the Lake District after Carlisle.