DORSET is part of an 18-month plan to set the South West’s tourism industry on the road to creating 66,000 jobs.

The Great South West Tourism Partnership believes its plan could generate the jobs by 2030 as well as attracting more visitor spending than before Covid.

The tourist industries of Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall generated £7.1billion a year in visitor spending before the pandemic, but saw 52 per cent of that disappear last year.

A new prospectus unveiled by the partnership sets out a plan for the industry, focused on making it more environmentally sustainable and more accessible, as well as reducing the fluctuations in trade between the seasons.

The Great South West Tourism Partnership involves Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), councils, universities and major businesses. Richard Smith, chair of Dorset LEP’s advisory group, Dorset Tourism Association, said: “Dorset LEP is proud to be a part of this partnership to drive economic growth in this sector to 2030 and beyond.

“This report is an important step towards our region’s recovery and aligns not only with Dorset LEP’s priorities for Dorset to deliver clean and inclusive economic growth, but also with strategies included in the UK government’s Build Back Better and Levelling Up agenda.

“I am excited by the plans to stabilise the sector, reduce seasonality and improve connectivity in Dorset. The Project Gigabit investment recently announced by the UK government will greatly improve the rural broadband infrastructure in the region, with Dorset and Cornwall set to benefit first from the investment.”

In 2019, the Dorset Council area attracted 16.9million visitors, who spent £954m. The BCP Council area had 13.2m visitors, spending £819m.

The tourism partnership is looking to raise £10m in investment under its 18-month programme. If this is followed by £6.5m of investment a year, it believes it could support 199,412 jobs in the region compared with the current 133,000. There would be £9bn of visitor spending – £1.9bn more than in pre-Covid times.

The plan includes relaunching the Visit South West brand as a year-round destination for growth markets, international visitors and business events.

A marketing campaign this autumn and winter is aimed at stretching the season.

There would also be support for developing business’s digital skills in areas such as online booking and use of data for market intelligence.

Businesses would be supported to develop their products and align them to growth markets.