STORMS, floods and road closures have taken their toll on tourism in West Dorset, say business leaders.

But they want to get the message across – Dorset is very much open for business and they want a unified tourism voice to say so.

Martin Cox owner of West Dorset Leisure Holidays said: “Bookings started off well but with the headlines relating to floods and the weather the phone definitely went quiet but it has picked up in the last few days."

Mr Cox was due to go to a meeting of the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership yesterday afternoon where he would be arguing for a unified tourism voice.

He said: “Dorset misses out greatly because there is no single voice for tourism. Many people in the business are trying to push this.

“The problem is each local authority works for itself. The consumer from Birmingham doesn’t see any difference in Weymouth and Portland from West Dorset and Purbeck, they just see it as Dorset.

“I am 100 per cent behind having a ‘Destination Dorset’ organisation to promote the county. Dorset is our brand.

“Devon has a single voice but we have no one. It is something I will be pushing for – as I have been for the last 20 years – trying to get the local authorities to recognise that we need one single voice.”

Steve Attrill, who runs the Hive Beach Café in Burton Bradstock and The Watch House in West Bay, said his businesses had been badly hit – and that Dorset had missed an opportunity to promote itself during the bad weather.

He said: “We are drastically down this year.

“But we need to get our Dorset tourist officers to hit the London market, to say Dorset is here, our roads are open and our train stations are running.

“You feel sorry for Devon and Cornwall and Somerset but we have to survive ourselves.

“You turn on the TV and you get Yorkshire advertised and you get Devon but Dorset, even on the news, gets missed.”

He said the county should have been getting the message out that unlike more severely hit counties Dorset was open and accessible.

Both businessmen said social media was playing an increasingly important role in promotion but there was still the need for Dorset brand marketing.

Terri Foxwell manager of the Bridport Tourist Information said they had noticed a decrease in bookings and enquiries compared to last year.

She said: “I have had a few accommodation providers in the last few days to say enquiries had really picked up so it is looking quite positive.

“The floods definitely deterred people – cancellations for shows at the Palace for instance from people who had to travel.”