Cumbria tourism lead's outstanding contribution to county recognised with honorary fellowship

Cumbria tourism lead's outstanding contribution to county recognised with honorary fellowship name

On the hottest day of the year, the managing director of one of the Lakes’ most iconic visitor attractions was awarded an honorary fellowship for his lifelong and outstanding service to tourism and the economy in Cumbria.

Nigel Wilkinson, Managing Director, Winander Leisure Limited received the honorary award on the first day of the University of Cumbria's summer graduations which took place in the cool surroundings of Carlisle Cathedral.

Honorary fellowships recognise individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the university or support causes linked to the university’s work. 

Reacting to the news Nigel Wilkinson MBE said: “I am delighted to receive this recognition from the University of Cumbria. Employers across this county appreciate the vital role that the University of Cumbria plays in developing the skills of our workforce, attracting talented individuals into Cumbria, and giving opportunity to Cumbrians who want to develop their careers in this fantastic part of the world. I hope that through the association with the University of Cumbria that this honorary fellowship brings, I can use my experience of Cumbria’s visitor and the wider economy to assist in the continued development of the University.”

VIDEO: Nigel Wilkinson MBE reacting to news of his honorary fellowship.

Nigel Wilkson MBE was born in Oxford in 1964 and spent his early education at Pocklington School in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

After graduating from the University of Nottingham with a BSc in Civil Engineering, he initially worked in engineering before qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with a York-based firm, Garbutt and Elliott, where he worked for 12 years until 2000, became a partner in 1996.

During that time, he led the acquisition of the Windermere Iron Steamboat Company Limited by Bowness Bay Boating Co. Limited, the forerunner of Windermere Lake Cruises Limited which he now leads. 

In 2000 Nigel joined marine technical services provider, Lintec Group Limited as Commercial Director before settling in the Lake District as Managing Director of Windermere Lake Cruises Limited four years later.

With Nigel’s significant experience in the public, business, and tourism sectors, he has become a respected voice for the region. 

Alongside his managing director position, he has held several non-executive roles including Director of Cumbria Tourism for ten years from 2007, and was elected chair of the Lake District National Park Partnership’s Business Task Force in 2015, just weeks before Storm Desmond hit the county, and represented the interests of the National Park’s business community in relation to the storm recovery programme.

In 2016 he was presented with the Bernard Gooch Award for Cumbria Tourism Personality of the Year in recognition of the impact he has had on the sector.

Then in 2017, Nigel joined the Board of the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership strategically leading all activities contributing to the county’s economic growth, where he also chairs the Visitor Economy Sector Panel and the Finance, Audit, and Resources Committee.

In 2020 he was appointed to the Tourism Industry Council, an industry-led board composed of employers and small businesses, and representative organisations from the tourism industry, which is co-chaired by the Minister for Sports, Tourism, and Heritage. In 2021 he joined the South Cumbria Rivers Trust as a Trustee and Director. 

Just last month, Nigel was awarded the ultimate accolade, an MBE for services to tourism and the economy in Cumbria, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2022. 

Speaking about the award of the honorary fellowship, Professor Julie Mennell, vice chancellor, of the University of Cumbria, said: “Nigel has made an outstanding contribution to the visitor economy in Cumbria, not least during the pandemic when he worked tirelessly to support both the livelihoods and businesses of the many thousands that make up this sector. With a passionate belief in the region and a desire to ensure the future growth and prosperity of the Cumbrian visitor and wider economy, he embodies the university’s values and is an outstanding advocate for the region. Therefore, I am delighted to award Nigel as an honorary fellow of the University of Cumbria.”

Nigel joins three other honorary fellows being conferred at University of Cumbria graduations this week, alongside over 800 students taking part in seven different ceremonies.

Dr. Julie Staun OBE was awarded an honorary fellowship in recognition of her lifelong and outstanding service to occupational health. Jackie Arnold MBE FCMA gained her honorary fellowship for lifelong and outstanding contribution to strategic development and business growth in Cumbria, and Geoffrey Donnelly MA BSc Hons was recognised for his lifelong and outstanding contribution to financial management, governance, and public service.

This week’s events are the first set of ceremonies to celebrate the University of Cumbria’s Class of 2022 as the institution returns to its biannual ceremonies, with a further set planned to take place in November.