Rolling English countryside

Rural and Visitor Economy

Rural & Visitor Economy (Theme Lead: Dr Angela Anthonisz)

The rural and visitor economy theme adopts a transformational business philosophy that encourages the development of innovative thinking and identification of contemporary approaches to managing the natural, cultural and heritage resources across the sector in Cumbria, but also at a national and international level. Our aims are to showcase local business, support business growth, encourage knowledge exchange, contribute to the research agenda and identify best practice in sustainable planning and management.  This is based on an appraisal of the mixed economy and the contributions each sector makes to sustainable rural environments.

Exploring the extent to which technology affects the interpersonal nature of hospitality

Jennie Underwood, Doctoral Researcher

This new research investigates the use and implications of AI and robotics in the service sector, primarily hospitality, with consideration to how these technologies may impact this people-focused industry.  This includes exploring the social and psychological impacts within the industry, consequences for customers, and positive and negative outcomes for the socio-economic and environmental elements of the visitor economy.   

The project includes mixed methods research to explore the application, implication, and perceived consequences of these technologies to understand potential changes in human behaviour, working with businesses in the service sector to help gain these insights.  

The exponential growth in technology requires evaluation of its influence on human behaviour in the industry to be able to mitigate challenges, for businesses to thrive while incorporating new ways of working.  

Supervisors:  Tim Heap and Dr Demos Parapanos

Thesis title: The impact of AI and robotics in the visitor economy: exploring to what extent technology influences and affects the interpersonal nature of the industry.  


View of Keswick and Derwent Water from Latrigg
Fieldwork recording debris on Pik Lenin

Creating Sustainability on Kyrgyzstan’s Pik Lenin

First climbed over ninety years ago, Kyrgyzstan’s 7,134m Pik Lenin (Lenin Peak) was the focus of significant Soviet mountaineering tourism from the 1950s and a permanent complex of buildings exists to this day in the valley at 3,600m. Since the mid-1990s and the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been significant interest from mountaineers from across the world. This sustained interest has combined to exert significant pressure on the mountain’s environment and brought it to attention as a candidate for state protection.  

Dr Stephen Taylor of University of Cumbria and Dr Vladimir Komissarov, President of the Kyrgyz Alpine Club, lead the international research team which has been active since 2017. A research report providing a full overview of the challenges facing sustainable tourism on the mountain was submitted to the Kyrgyz government in 2018.  In 2019 the first phase of the identified research programme involved the identification and the geolocation/mapping of the significant rubbish and debris generated by years of activity on the mountain’s main glacier at the site of numerous advanced base camps at an altitude of 4,300m.  A non-technical version of the research can be found here. In 2020, during the lull of normal commercial activity imposed by COVID, the formal research report was used to secure local government funding (26,000 USD) to remove 7 tons of debris from the glacier.  Additionally, this usefully provided an income to the horsemen normally employed in the mountain’s normal tourism activities. 

In 2022, the focus shifted to the camp located at 5,300m, where debris from commercial operations is an issue. More significantly, the lack of any controls or systems for dealing with human waste poses a major challenge and is currently being investigated.  

In 2023, Dr Stephen Taylor proposed a Co-management Network Governance System, outlined in this research note (Taylor, 2023).

Partners: Kyrgyz Alpine Club

Funders:  Local government funding for rubbish clearance, but longer term funding and support is being sought as part of the ongoing activities and funding related to tourism by Helvetas (Kyrgyzstan) Helvetas Kyrgyzstan | Independent Swiss development organization 

Contact: Dr Stephen Taylor 

Photo credit: Jason Sheldrake 

Digital innovation for a deeper understanding of visitor behaviour

Delia Moisa, Doctoral Researcher

The research aim is to develop a digital platform abling the use of sector-based algorithms to allow tourim businesses to more accurately study, profile and predict customer behaviour. 

The tourism industry is well-suited for customer-centric innovation, and traditional demographics are not sufficient to understand the visitor. Every visitor is unique, with individual preferences, motives, desires, needs and wants.  

The objective of the study is to augment broad person-based demographics (gender, age, etc) by using the concept of personality trait. As opposed to standard personalisation based on traditional demographics, this type of personalisation interprets human drives and correlates tourism products and services with personality traits. Data collection is based on survey methodology with a random sample of visitors in Cumbria.  

Understanding personality traits provides a strategic advantage to marketers, and knowing how to leverage this market segmentation is key to upping the marketing efforts and keeping the audience satisfied.  

Supervisors:  Tim Heap (Lead Supervisor) and Dr Demos Parapanos

Funding:  University of Cumbria

Partners:  Cumbria Tourism

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The researcher visiting the popular Rydal Caves
Eucalyptus glaucescens trees

Incorporating eucalypts into the Ecological Site Classification

Dr Andrew Leslie. Senior Lecturer at University of Cumbria, was engaged in consultancy for this project.

The project is aimed at extending the scope of the ForestFounder system, a geospatial analysis system that identifies optimal sites for various forestry activities including growing woody biomass.

The University of Cumbria’s input was to assist in defining site suitability for Eucalyptus glaucescens within the Ecological Site Classification decision support system, a tool for matching trees to forestry sites.  

Eucalyptus glaucescensis grown as short rotation forestry has potential as a source of fast-growing woody biomass.  

Funder:  BEIS -  Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme

Partners: Forest Research, Forest Creation Partners   

Please contact: 

Photo credit:  Chris Bennett, Lancashire County Council 

Valuing the Cultural Farmed Landscape

The project is designed to demonstrate the diverse cultural heritage of Lake District farms in terms of tangible structures and intangible processes. It provides ideas for farmers and communities to consider in terms of diversification in line with the new Government agenda of public goods.  

This booklet specifically explains the value of farmed cultural landscapes for nature recovery and climate action and ideas for farmers to adopt.  

See also, this short film 'What did farming ever do for us?' by Rob Granger Photography. 

Other outputs will include a community project and a voiced-over powerpoint presentation. 


Funder: Lake District Farming in Protected Landscape Programme 

Value:     £28K 

Please contact:

Shepherds' meet, tent, herdwick sheep.
Sheep in a field in Cumbria

Gap Analysis for Hill Farm Support Post Brexit

A critical evaluation of areas needing further support for hill farming in Cumbria. Key findings focused on the need for better relationship management between organisations and farmers, and second, a more holistic integrated advisory service.


Funder: Royal Society of Arts Food, Farming & Countryside Commission

Please contact:



Norway and Hybrid spruce trials

These two projects are focused on diversifying the range of trees used in production forestry.

The Norway spruce (Picea abies) trials involve testing improved material from seed orchards in France, Sweden and Denmark against the German material commonly planted in the UK across two sites in Scotland, one in south west England and one in Wales.

The hybrid spruce trials are focused on testing a spruce hybrid (Picea X lutzii) on four sites in south east Scotland and north east England considered to have insufficient rainfall for Sitka spruce, the main production species in commercial forestry in the UK.

Funder: See Partners

Partners: Maelor Forest Nurseries Ltd, Tillhill Forestry, Scottish Woodland, Forestry England 

Please contact:



Nordic spruce tree
Lake district conservation area

Pine weevil control trials

These are a series of trials, established across several years testing are focused on testing physical, chemical and other measures to reduce the damage of pine weevil (Hylobius abietis) on Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), the main production species in commercial forestry in the UK.

Pine weevil is the only forest insect pest in the UK where control measures are routinely taken and damage estimated at Euro 100 million is caused by the insect across Europe.

Funder: See Partners

Partners: Maelor Forest Nurseries Ltd, Tillhill Forestry, Scottish Woodland, Forestry England

Please contact:,



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