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06 April 2017

Eyes on the Prize - Dorset Tourism Association Inaugural Conference


The inaugural Conference of the DTA was held at Kingston Maurward College on 28 March 2017. The ‘sold out’ event included over 120 delegates representing the entire geography of Dorset. They represented tourism businesses from hotels, B&B, holiday accommodation, camping and holiday parks, visitor attractions to transport providers including the harbours, airport and bus companies as well as destination management teams and other tourism trade businesses and organisations.  The title of the conference was ‘Eyes on the Prize’  and a summary of the day is as follows:

  • The Dorset Tourism Association & the Dorset LEP - Gordon Page (Chair of the DLEP)
  • Doing Tourism Even Better – Professor Terry Stevens  
  • The Dorset Context (How do we stop Dorset losing market share?) – Richard Smith (Chair of the DTA)
  • Facilitated break out groups with ideas around Brand Dorset, the destination and the road map
  • Pop-up slots: Jurassic Coast, Dorset Food & Drink, Dorset Museums, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Dorset Tourism Awards, Arts Development Company, Poole Lighthouse, Dorchester Maltings

Feedback from the delegates was very positive with 72% of the feedback forms stating it was very good or excellent.  

Key Findings

The conference was well received.  Many comments about the great speakers. In particular about Terry Stevens, whose talk was thought provoking and encouraged everyone to think different about Dorset’s USPs, personalising the product and working together. 

There were a number of suggested improvements mainly around assisting the networking e.g. delegate lists, introductions, better badges. There is a great appetite for ‘what happens next?’

Fantastic feedback on the ‘Best of Dorset’ Ploughmans Lunch and the Dorset Apple Cake with Dorset clotted cream.

Many delegates expressed that they are inspired to take action following this conference particularly around networking, search out what’s on in their area, improve their co-operation with other businesses – opening their minds, looking for opportunities to change.

Most common words used to encapsulate what’s most exciting about Dorset’s tourism offering were Dorset’s Diversity, Potential, Wealth, Range and Variety (of offering), Festival County, Coast, Countryside and Culture.

Most common words to encapsulate Dorset tourism’s biggest challenge were Communication, Collaboration, Infrastructure and Transport.    

Other comments were around wanting to know the follow-up actions; continuing the dialogue and networking, sharing ideas and working together. 


Next Steps

Immediate next steps (within 2 weeks of the conference):

  • Issue delegate list – to be emailed out to all delegates (who have opted in)
  • Publicise the plan for next actions & timetable
  • Update DTA website & issue press release 

To move forward – the first actions (within 6 weeks of the conference):

The DTA board is producing detailed analysis of the output of the workshops. Contact with delegates and other DTA members will be through the website, enewsletter and social media. The DTA will:    

  1. Initiate local group networking events with the themes of Food & Drink and Arts & Culture as common threads across Dorset.  The plan is to host events e.g. late June/early July in Weymouth; late Sept/early Oct in Shaftesbury/Sherborne and then another in January 2018 in Poole.
  2. Actively promote the Dorset Ambassadors programme – the DTA is committed to supporting this staff training programme from the National Coastal Tourism Academy. It specifically addresses the education point raised in the conference but could be enhanced in the future to help with the ‘temporary local’ or hidden Dorset gems ideas.
  3. Start a project on Dorset’s Brand Values – this was a key area in the feedback and a major outcome from the conference responding to the challenging presentation by Terry Stevens e.g. What are the USPs for Dorset? how are we different? how do we personalise our offer? How to we compete better?

DTA members will be invited to contribute to these projects. 


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