Coronavirus: Fears for Dorset's tourism industry

Coronavirus:  Fears for Dorset's tourism industry

Published by Maria Greenwood at 7:11am 22nd April 2020.

No immediate steps are being taken by Dorset Council to look at the impact of the pandemic on local tourism.

The council says it has no studies planned in the short-term, although it is promoting a county-wide business survey from the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership.

A report from neighbouring Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, has put the likely loss to the tourism sector in its area at half a billion pounds over six months.

Many parts of rural Dorset, notably Weymouth, Portland, Swanage, Lyme Regis, West Bay and Bridport are heavily dependent on the seasonal tourism trade with Weymouth and Portland one of the most deprived areas in the whole country, heavily reliant on seasonal work.

Weymouth Swannery car park closed
Weymouth Swannery Car Park closed

All of those Dorset coastal towns have seen the unitary council close beachside car parks from the outset and regular events which attract people to the area have also been cancelled.

Dorset Police have played their part by stopping and turning potential visitors away.

police stopping vehicles in Dorset
Police stopping vehicles in Dorset

Said a Dorset Council spokesman when asked about the likelihood of a study being made into the effects on tourism locally:

"We are currently promoting the DLEP’s business survey on the impact of C19, and may undertake our own survey of Visit Dorset members at a later date to feed into a (Government) select committee.

"We would probably look to DLEP to release the results of their business impact survey on tourism businesses once it is complete."

The Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) council report says that a six-month lockdown in its area could result in 9,000 job losses with the industry finding it difficult to recover – although there is a belief that many visitors will prefer holidays in the UK to trips abroad once the restrictions end, if they ever do.

A three month lock down is expected to lead to at least 5,000 job losses in the BCP area.

Bridport South Street
South Street in Bridport

At the moment local holiday parks, hotels and B&Bs remain closed with the majority having either furloughed their staff or made redundancies.

Casual workers who would normally find work locally at this time of year have not been able to with many remaining unemployed.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter