LIFE in Dorset was much more normal this summer compared to last year with footfall even surpassing pre-pandemic levels, data suggests.

Google has used location data from phones and other personal devices to track trends in people's movement in different parts of their daily lives.

It compares footfall in five areas outside of the home – retail and recreation, supermarkets and pharmacies, parks, public transport and workplaces to a five-week baseline period recorded before the pandemic.

In Dorset, average activity across these categories was 45 per cent above normal levels between July and September.

Bournemouth Echo: Busier summer in Dorset as footfall up on 2020. Picture: RADARBusier summer in Dorset as footfall up on 2020. Picture: RADAR

This was up significantly from summer 2020, when footfall was 13 per cent above the baseline.

Most rules were relaxed last summer in England – though nightclubs remained shut, large-scale events were banned and social distancing rules were still in place.

COO of Bournemouth BID Paul Kinvig said: “This is very encouraging news and has obviously been driven by the staycation market which is reflective across Dorset.

“I think all businesses in the area, be it tourist or hospitality, would welcome this news. However, we do still face significant challenges on staffing, supply chains and what we’ve seen recently with the fuel situation.

“A good proportion of people who came down to Dorset for their big holiday this year will likely return in the future. Even if they go abroad, we hope that they’ll come back even if just for a weekend which probably wouldn’t have happened in other circumstances.

“We know that there’s been a fundamental shift in how people shop but anything like Bobby’s for example that’s different and innovative always helps – regardless of sector.”

Mr Kinvig also believes that the reestablishment of the Christmas Wonderland this year, which will have additional features throughout the town, will “drive more footfall and encourage people to explore the town centre”.

Google data for July to September 2021 in Dorset shows:

  • Activity in retail and recreation establishments was 7 per cent above normal levels
  • In supermarkets and grocery stores, it was 21 per cent above usual
  • Activity was 221 per cent above pre-pandemic measurements in parks and public spaces
  • It was equal to the baseline on public transport
  • Activity in workplaces was 25 per cent below normal

Across the UK, activity increased from 8 per cent below normal levels last summer, to 3 per cent above this year.

Retail and recreation establishments – such as restaurants, cafes and shopping centres – saw a 17-percentage point increase, matched only by supermarkets and pharmacies.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at retail analytics firm Springboard, said the "absence of easy international travel" increased the popularity of day trips and holidays within the UK this year, providing a boost to high street footfall.

"In coastal and historic towns the improvement was even greater, demonstrating the appeal of town centres to visitors,” she added.