DOZENS of businesses came together to find out how a new continental cycle route through Dorset will boost tourism in Weymouth.

The 265-mile Petit Tour de Manche, which officially opens in spring, will link the county with Normandy, Brittany and Jersey.

Around 50 businesses from the Weymouth and Portland area gathered at a seminar in Weymouth Pavilion on Tuesday to discuss the benefits the scheme will bring to tourism in the area.

Peter Finney, of Dorset County Council, said the route will have a positive effect on businesses in the borough.

He said: “I’m very keen on this scheme, it’s a fantastic opportunity for Weymouth and Portland to show off their wares and increase tourism.

“Here in Weymouth there have been a huge increase in the number of cycling routes and there’s more to come.

“This is a very positive way forward and will be an asset to the town.

“The public have responded very positively as well.”

The seminar focused on how the local tourist industry can cater for growing numbers of visitors on cycling holidays, such as hotels providing bike storage or repair facilities.

Emma Carter, of the Bed and Breakfast Club, Weymouth, said: “I’m really interested in sustainable tourism and our B&B is very friendly for cyclists.

“It’s a no brainer that this will be good for local tourism, I don’t know why we haven’t done something like this sooner.”

Jenny Eyles, of Heights Hotel, Portland, said: “Portland is fantastic for cycling and I’m keen to encourage more cyclists to the area.

“Since the Olympics biking has become more popular so we want to concentrate on that by linking in with this project.”

The Petit Tour de Manche is one of three new routes being co-ordinated by Cycle West as part of a £6.8m project and incorporates cross-Channel ferry crossings and parts of the Jurassic Coast Unesco World Heritage Site.

On the French side, it takes in Mont Saint Michel as well as the D-Day landing beaches.

Isabelle Parfitt, project manager for Cycle West, said the aim is to bring French tourists across to England.

She said: “There’s a large number of English visitors coming to France and we are trying to promote French coming to England because it’s not very far from Dorset to Normandy.

“We’re hoping that with all the funding that has gone into this project it will have a really positive impact on business in the area.”

A total of £270,000 will be spent in the county on improvements to cycle routes, completing missing links and installing cycle parking.