Jen Cormack - Windermere Lake Cruises
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 November 2019
A woman born in Padiham is helping to bring visitors to the Lake District from all over the world.
A holiday job in the Lake District set Jen Cormack on a path that led to a jet-set career. She is now sales and marketing director at Windermere Lake Cruises and is helping to spread the word about the region's charms and to attract visitors from across the globe.
As a girl growing up in Padiham, she had plans to study forensic science at university but later trained to be an accountant. The former Habergham High School pupil's first role in the holiday trade was at White Cross Bay, by Windermere, then part of South Lakes Caravans.
She started on reception and in the restaurant, and blossomed under the tutelage of John Morphet, who created an empire that became known as Pure Leisure Group.
'I became reservation manager, then moved into marketing and events,' said 37-year-old Jen. 'I also became John's PA and learned an incredible amount from him, about how to be frugal with accounts, but also the drive and ambition. I couldn't have had a better start to a business career.'
She joined Windermere Lake Cruises in 2014 and has taken part in overseas sales missions to China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, the United States of America and Europe.
The business has grown hugely in the last five years, mainly through foreign visitors. Last year it had 1.63 million passenger journeys on the traditional cruises that glide around Windermere, making it the fourth most visited paying attraction in the UK.
About 30% are from overseas, with China, Japan, US, Taiwan and Malaysia among the growth areas. The next target is India, where Jen is due to visit in January.
These customers do not just arrive. Jen frequently joins tourism board trips to the far flung markets of the world where she spends days talking in teams about the attractions of the North West to groups of travel agents, and evenings putting on presentations at events.
'Sometimes it is like speed networking, sitting at a desk with for two to three days, talking to 60-90 businesses, selling your wares, in 12 minute appointments with a translator.
'When I get home, I have to follow up and keep in contact,' says Jen, who has had to master all forms of social media popular around the world to keep in touch.
She will do three cities at a time, in China, or Japan, or wherever. Even back home, she is often in London or Manchester. The week Lancashire Life caught up with Jen she had just returned from Westminster to lobby tourism minister, Caroline Noakes, over the £30,000 minimum wage proposal for immigrants post-Brexit. She believes that would severely handicap the tourism industry in the north where the average wage is £17,000. Jen is a director of Cumbria Tourism and Chair of the Lake District China Forum. She is on the Management Board of the Lake District Hotels Association. Her most recent appointment was to be elected to the Board of Directors for UKinbound, a national holiday trade organization, promoting tourism to the UK.
'Why should anyone from America or China come to the UK, when other European countries have so much to offer?
We have to show that England in general and the North West in particular have a great mix of attractions, and to do that we have to do it collaboratively,' she says.