HOTELS across Bournemouth are expected to be at full capacity by tomorrow, as tens of thousands of visitors flock to the conurbation for the bank holiday weekend getaway.

It is shaping up to be the busiest weekend of the year so far, coming less than a fortnight after government sanctioned the lifting of even more lockdown restrictions.

Dorset’s hospitality sector has been coming back to life since being allowed to open to customers indoors earlier this month.

With question marks remaining over foreign travel the county hopes to benefit from the ‘staycation’ boom.

Yesterday, Tim Seward, chairman of the Bournemouth Area Hospitality Association told the Daily Echo that hotels were filling up fast, with some already full.

“It will be a full weekend – Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“Even into half term there are hotels reporting bookings back to where we were last summer.

“It is very simple, hotels will be full this bank holiday weekend.

“We are going to get to the stage this weekend when there will be no accommodation left, there will be people coming down looking for rooms and there will be a only a few random rooms left in town.

“Everybody is at maximum occupancy.

“Hotels will be at 99 if not 100 per cent occupancy by Saturday night.”

While thousands of visitors represents a welcome shot-in-the-arm for the hospitality sector, which has been battered economically by the pandemic, some residents have sounded a note of caution.

They are hoping to not see any repeat of last summer’s crowds at Bournemouth Beach, which led BCP Council declaring a major incident.

After a prolonged period of wet and windy weather, sunshine is forecast for Bournemouth from Saturday through into midweek. Temperatures of 20C are expected.

Councillor Drew Mellor, BCP Council Leader, said: “We are a leading holiday destination that is proud to welcome millions of visitors each year and this year is no exception.

“With the Bank Holiday approaching and Covid-19 restrictions now significantly eased, we have planned extensively and are ready for the summer season with all our additional measures in place to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all. I would also strongly remind those intending to visit that they must respect and protect as well as enjoy what the area has to offer and state that action will be taken against those who do not.”

Meanwhile, Sophie Ricketts, head of seasonal response at BCP Council said: “We welcome our visitors; over 17,000 jobs in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole rely on our tourism industry, however we urge people to protect our natural environment, respect our staff and one another, while enjoying what we have to offer.

“The BeachCheck App is live with beach and car park density information and we would encourage anyone travelling by car to use this, or our newly opened Park and Ride site at Kings Park."

Dorset Police say they have been preparing for the expected influx of visitors to Bournemouth – and the wider Dorset county area – over the spring and summer.

Chief Superintendent Mark Callaghan said: “The expected restrictions on international travel will inevitably see people visiting Dorset for a staycation and we are working proactively with our partners to coordinate and strengthen plans to keep both residents and visitors safe.

“We are delighted the county has reopened so we can welcome people back to Dorset, but this cannot be at the expense of people’s health.

“We continue to ask people to stick within the Covid-19 restrictions as we ease through the roadmap so that we do not undo the good work that has already been done.”

Meanwhile, assistant Chief Fire Officer Andy Cole, of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “With the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions we are expecting more people to visit our beautiful countryside over the half term break.

“Following the devastating fire at Wareham Forest a year ago we are asking both locals and visitors alike to #BringAPicnicNotABBQ when they enjoy time out and about.”