An awards scheme to recognise the county’s most successful businesses is now open for entries.

Businesses are invited to enter the Dorset Tourism Awards before the deadline of May 22.

Last year was a record year, say event organisers, in which the region’s tourism awards schemes attracted 647 entries.

Winners of the Dorset awards go on to compete in the regional scheme and in February a number of West Dorset businesses were recognised in the South West Tourism Awards, including Dorset House in Lyme Regis, the Town Mill in Lyme Regis, the Acorn Inn in Evershot and Golden Acre Holiday Bungalows.

The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty were also recognised.

For 2018, organisers said there will be several changes, reflecting the constantly changing nature of tourism. There is a new category for tourism innovation and new business, the former sustainable tourism category has been widened to look at additional areas such as employment and use of plastics, and there are many criteria changes. The single biggest change is the earlier launch date, responding to industry requests for the chance to prepare entries at a quieter time of year.

A survey of 2017/18 awards entrants has been used to further develop and refine the awards process, with entrants highlighting that their main reason for taking part was to help raise the quality of their businesses and for the free feedback provided. This has led to a programme of ‘Tourism Excellence’ workshops, helping businesses move to yet higher levels and giving them the best chances of awards success.

Nick Fernyhough, partner at chartered accountants Saffery Champness, which is the headline sponsor, said: “The county continues to improve its tourism infrastructure and invest heavily in what is a key economic driver for Dorset. The success of the Jurassic Coast Team at last year’s Awards and the recognition that Bournemouth Beach has recently received, after being named ‘best beach in the UK’ by TripAdvisor and 5th best in Europe, emphasises the outstanding natural features that Dorset has to offer. The Awards continue to reflect the constant improvement in the tourism industry in the county and Saffery Champness Accountants are delighted to be headline sponsors for yet another year. We are looking forward to recognising and rewarding outstanding achievements by Dorset businesses.”

Organiser of the awards Robin Barker added: “Feedback from last year’s entrants tells us that the awards are increasing in their relevance and our suggestions for the future met with an enthusiastic response.”

Entry is free, the programmes being funded by a range of sponsors and partners, and all entrants receive feedback. The deadline for entering the awards is midnight on May 22 for all categories except customer service superstar and tourism events and festivals which close on 22 August 22.