Dorset Market Segmentation Research

In late 2023, Visit Dorset commissioned research to understand the different types of current and potential visitors to the county, in order to identify potential growth audiences and to support more targeted marketing and offer development.

The research company BVA BDRC were appointed to carry out the audience segmentation research, building on earlier segmentation research carried out for BCP Council and BAHA (BH Area Hospitality Association).

A 15 minute online survey of UK holiday decision-makers living in the Dorset target areas was completed by 2167 people during January 2024. The target areas included the South West, South East, London, West Midlands, East Midlands and the East of England. The target markets are based on previous visitor research, known users of the Visit Dorset website and followers of Visit Dorset social media channels.

Of the total number of surveys completed, 586 people had visited Dorset in the last 3 years.

Brand Health

The research shows that of all the destinations in the South West, Dorset is the third most desirable and visited county. Cornwall takes the first position, followed by Devon, most likely due to the fame and reputation of these counties.

For Dorset, 39% of those who completed the online survey have already visited the county, and 75% of those would return for a future visit. 17% have visited in the last 3 years and 47% would consider visiting Dorset for a day trip or holiday in the future.

In comparing Dorset to its closest neighbours and destination competitors of Devon and Hampshire and the New Forest, Dorset's USP is fossil hunting, but it could also leverage the fact that it offers all the advantages of Devon (and Cornwall) without the volume of tourists. Overall perceptions of Dorset are very similar to Devon, with the key appeal for both being their beautiful beaches and coastline.

Perceptions of Dorset

Past visitors particularly associate Dorset with beautiful beaches, fossils and picturesque market towns. However, only 15% of non-visitors are aware of Dorset’s fossil fame, so there is an opportunity to educate on this.

In comparison to it's competitors, Dorset had a higher percentage of survey respondents associating the county to literary connections and culture, as well as getting close to nature, which suggests these may be drivers for some visitors.

Barriers to visiting Dorset

The main barriers to visiting for previous visitors are distance and unpredictable weather (underlining the fact that Dorset competes with foreign holidays as well as other southern counties).

For non-visitors, distance is again the biggest barrier, followed by not knowing enough about the area and what is on offer. It’s therefore important to promote ease of access and rainy-day options as well as the wonderful array of outdoor sights and attractions in the county.

Previous visitor profile - day trippers and overnight stays

Day trippers are more likely to live in the South West and so are able to visit Dorset more regularly. Nearly half visit every year, so they may be looking for new ideas of places to see/things to do, but have a lower average household income so may have less to spend.

Short breakers are most likely to visit from London and the South East, while those taking a longer holiday travel further, with over half visiting from the Midlands.

Holidays of 4 or more nights are somewhat more likely to attract people who have retired.

Holidays of 4 or more nights are typically taken with partner/family, often including children, with motivations typically being quality time together and to explore the area.

Day trips and short breaks have more varied party types and motivations than longer holidays, and offer more opportunity for specialist packages.

Satisfaction is high across all types of visits, but improves the longer the visitor stays!

Opportunity for growth

The adult population of The Midlands and the South is 32 million people.

Of the percentage who have visited Dorset in the past and would consider a visit in the future, this represents 15.7 million adults, plus their children, plus repeat visits, plus visitors from rest of UK and overseas.

How will audience segmentation help your business?

The Dorset audience segmentation research will help you to decide who to target, how to access them, how to attract them, how to engage them, and how to build loyalty.

Ultimately, it can help you to build a more engaged audience, that promotes your offer through word of mouth recommendations, and returns.

Segmentations provide a structured view of the market which helps by providing a common language to use across your organisation, guiding more efficient/effective marketing, and making smarter investments with your budgets.

An introduction to the Dorset leisure segments

A webpage has been created for each segment. You can also download the full Dorset audience segmentation report for more in-depth information.

Comfort and Convenience

Active and Mindful

Nature and Culture

Luxury and Learning

Fun and Relaxation

What does your Dorset look like? Adventures on our epic coastline? Visiting attractions with family? A walk through the beautiful countryside? Or perhaps a chilled out evening eating and drinking with friends? Discover a sample of your #VisitDorset images below and share your love for Dorset using the hashtag on Instagram.