The tourism and hospitality industry in Dorset says it is going the extra mile to open safely this weekend.

Businesses say the easing to lockdown measures is good news for Dorset’s tourism and hospitality sector.

An important driver for Dorset’s economy, tourism is valued at £1bn a year and employs over 40,000 people across the region.

In line with this change to government policy, Dorset’s businesses - which have experienced major impact on their operations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic - have been preparing to welcome back visitors safely so they can once again enjoy a variety of local attractions.

Richard Smith, Chair of Dorset Tourism Association and Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) board member said: “It’s great that tourism can now re-open in Dorset. We live in a fantastic place with so much to take advantage of, especially after this period of lockdown. The easing of restrictions will help our businesses get back on their feet and get people back in their jobs, which will be welcome news to many.

“Opening up Dorset’s tourism industry safely will take time and Dorset Tourism Association members are working closely with partners and businesses to ensure that tourism and hospitality organisations do it right - this will likely mean a phased re-opening for some and visitors should check what is open before travelling.”

Caz Richards from Dorset Food & Drink is encouraging Dorset’s residents to stay local and shop local saying: “Suppliers across the county have done an excellent job of adapting their offerings to support local communities, and we encourage our residents to continue to shop locally and support our local producers.

“We are working with local attractions to include small pop-up producer markets at their venues as well as with our members to safely bring back farmers’ markets to the heart of Dorset’s communities. Farmers’ markets are accessible to everyone and customers, especially children, can really benefit from a ‘plot to plate’ experience, both in terms of health and education.”

On the re-opening of pubs and restaurants, Anthony Woodhouse, Chairman of Hall & Woodhouse shared: “Over the coming weeks we’ll be phasing the re-opening of our establishments to make sure we can provide safe dining experiences for Dorset’s local communities – this includes operating a 2 meter rule to help our patrons feel comfortable. By taking a phased approach we will also be in a stronger position to support our team.

“One of the biggest issues now facing Dorset’s economy is unemployment, particularly for young people. Hospitality can offer great employment and social mobility opportunities and relieve some burden as a result of the lack of opportunities in other sectors.”

The recent announcement from the government also means that people can now enjoy breaks away in England, with the re-opening of accommodation sites. Martin J Cox, Managing Director of West Dorset Leisure Holidays said: “We are aiming to re-open our five Holiday parks on 4 July, with safety guidelines in place to welcome visitors to Dorset for their holiday breaks. To ensure we are ‘COVID-19 secure’, we have joined thousands of other organisations that have signed-up to the Visit England ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme for the benefit of our team, our customers and the community.

“As a holiday park, all our units of accommodation are at least 5 meters apart and ideal for social distancing with links to coastal and inland footpaths for outdoor activities. Our team will be trained in dealing with the cleaning and hygiene necessary and we’re also giving our caravan owners information for use before they leave home and on arrival.”

The easing of restrictions will also help to restore the arts and culture sector.

Sarah James, Chief Executive of The Arts Development Company said: “A number of museums and galleries across Dorset will begin to re-open some of their facilities to local residents and visitors over the summer months of July and August. These include: Shaftesbury Abbey Museum & Gardens, Nothe Fort, Shire Hall, The Etches Collection, Walford Mill Crafts, Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum and The Tank Museum. All of these venues are looking forward to welcoming families and their communities back.

“As of yet, there has been no indication from the government about when theatres and performing arts spaces can re-open their auditoriums to audiences, although most of our venues in Dorset continue to present performances and creative workshops online.”

Sally King, Visitor Tourism & Access Manager for Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Jurassic Coast Trust shared: “Dorset AONB covers 40% of the county and is a nationally important, protected landscape and the Jurassic Coast, where the land meets the sea, is England’s only natural World Heritage Site; a 95 mile stretch of globally important geology and stunning unspoilt coastal scenery.

“Visitors are vital to the economy of Dorset and ‘re-opening’ the county to tourism will help sustain local jobs for local people and keep local businesses going. We want everyone to enjoy Dorset’s abundance of fresh air and wide-open spaces, and ask visitors to be considerate towards local residents and respect the natural environment.”

Tim Batty, Manager of World Heritage also welcomed the news: “The summer is a good time to visit your local attractions. Dorset is a favourite, with a wide variety of things to do that complement our beautiful coast and countryside, including steam railways and boat trips, museums and exhibitions, activity parks and farms, as well as castles, stately homes and gardens.

“They will all be welcoming visitors back again from July. You can feel sure you are safe as all attractions will have taken extra measures to reduce the risks.”

Check individual attractions for details on re-opening, pre-booking and other new measures as they start to welcome back visitors.

Dorset Tourism Association is an advisory group for Dorset LEP established in 2016 to promote, market and develop tourism in Dorset. Tourism is an established and important sector identified in Dorset’s Local Industrial Strategy.