BOURNEMOUTH’S National Coastal Tourism Academy has celebrated its first year of promoting the resort.

A gathering of tourism rep-resentatives heard a top tourism champion say that tourism had grown during the recession – but that ignorance and prejudice could still prevent holiday-makers considering much of England.

More than 60 hoteliers, restaur-ateurs, retailers, academics and staff came together to hear about what the academy had achieved so far.

They heard updates on the academy’s four key areas of focus – industry-relevant research; creating an enhanced visitor experience; new training programmes; and the creation of a new attraction, the Coastal Activity Park at Boscombe.

Louise Stewart, VisitEngland strategy and development officer, told the event that tourism had grown during the recession but there remained an education job to be done.

“We can’t fix the weather or the economy but lack of knowledge and broad-brush prejudices can prevent holidaymakers considering much of England,” she said.

“Many people’s geography is very bad. Large swathes of the country are unfamiliar and they don’t expect them to be appealing.

“There’s also very patchy awareness even amongst the self-proclaimed, more knowledgeable empty-nesters. “A surprising number of people don’t know what’s on offer – even in resorts like Bournemouth.”

Samantha Richardson, director of the academy, said: “In our first year and with only a small team of nine, we have achieved a number of successes.

“More than 1,200 people have completed our online training module Bournemouth Ambassador, we’ve engaged with 129 visitor-facing businesses in the town, we’ve recruited 115 customer care champions and scouts to reward examples of great customer service and we’re working on 50 different tourism projects.

“But as Louise Stewart highlighted at the event, there is always more a coastal tourist resort can do to attract new business and I would be delighted to hear from any business that would like to work with us to do just that.”

The academy has undertaken a survey to provide accurate information about who a typical Bournemouth visitor is, which will be shared at coastaltourism It has announced new initia-tives including Bitesize Bournemouth – a whistle-stop educat-ional seminar for all industry recruits, alongside a new welcome guide and an enhanced version of the Bournemouth Ambassador training programme.

All are free to the industry.