Tourism is a major factor to the Dorset economy bringing a record number of visitors to the county, new figures show.

Figures from VisitBritain have revealed that almost 400,000 tourists came to Dorset in 2017, contributing more than £226m to the local economy.

This was a four per cent increase on 2016 where 381,000 visited the county with many businesses and tourist attractions feeling the benefit.

However, across the UK, there were 39.2 million inbound visits to the UK in 2017, rising 4 per cent from the previous year.

The release of the figures comes as thousands of tourists flocked to Weymouth and the wider Dorset area packing out the beach and many pubs, fish and chip shops, restaurants and cafés as temperatures rose to 30 degrees in one of the warmest summers since 1969.

Tamsin Mutton-Mcknight, general manager of Weymouth SEA LIFE Adventure Park, said: "Dorset provides unique experiences and destinations and we need to maximise awareness of these to grow both inbound and domestic tourism in the future.

"We’ve been delighted to see so many guests enjoying our outdoor facilities."

Charlotte Spracklen, centre manager at Brewery Square Dorchester, added: “It’s great to see a rise in the tourism figures for Dorset, we have so much to offer as a county that it really does need to be seen to be believed.

"We’re very lucky in that the heatwave has seen a boost of visitors to the Square as families are able to come down and enjoy the fountains whilst shopping and dining in the area, and now that we’re into the summer holidays we’re sure this will continue if the weather holds."

Nick Thornley, head of economy at the Dorset Council Partnership, added: "It’s very encouraging to see an increase of four per cent in visitors numbers and 18 per cent in spend for Dorset in the latest figures from VisitEngland’s research on inbound tourism from overseas markets.

"These figures demonstrate the importance of tourism, in sustaining services that local communities benefit from all year round and its role as a vital part of the local economy.

"Dorset offers spectacular coast and outstanding countryside so it’s no surprise that it has broad appeal from both domestic and overseas visitors."

Nationally, tourism is worth more than £127 billion to the Dorset economy and VisitBritain said that this figure was growing year on year.

VisitBritain director, Patricia Yates, said: "Tourism is one of Britain's most valuable export industries and the strong growth across many of our high-value markets demonstrates our continued ability to attract international visitors in a fiercely competitive global industry, and to deliver economic growth right across the country.

"This growth underscores the increasing importance of tourism as an industry that demonstrates Britain is an outward-facing nation, welcoming and engaging people from all over the world."