BOURNEMOUTH'S tourism industry is booming, with holidaymakers and day-trippers boosting the economy by £440 million a year, new statistics have shown.
On the day travel giant Thomas Cook announced that UK summer bookings were down and the jobs of 2,800 workers in jeopardy, tourist chiefs pledged to give traditional package tour operators a run for their money.
South West Tourism revealed that almost nine million people visited Bournemouth during 2005, safeguarding 12,723 jobs.
The borough's head of tourism Mark Smith said: "This report confirms that Bournemouth's tourism industry is flourishing.
"It is the sheer millions of pounds' worth of investment going into the town, both from the public and private sectors, that ensures Bournemouth continues to be a vibrant, dynamic town and a competitive alternative to the overseas package holiday.
"Examples of investment include the huge beach replenishment programme, the development of Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers and the Boscombe Chine gardens.
"Other major investment has come in the form of a new £9 million Golden Tulip hotel, many hotels undergoing multi-million pound refurbishments and the surf reef.
"Although the reef project has been delayed it is set to make Bournemouth a premium surfing destination."
Mike Francis, chairman of the Bournemouth Tourism Management Board, said: "These days most people want to organise their own trips and so the package holiday is becoming less popular.
"Bournemouth is in a good position to take advantage of this change because of the range of options available to both visitors and residents; the heritage, water sports, dining facilities and shopping."
He added: "Tourism brings so much wealth to the town but the economic benefits are only part of the story. The extra facilities make a real difference to the number of people employed in the industry and improve the quality of life for local people."