BOURNEMOUTH basked in temperatures eclipsing the south of France and Spain’s Costa Blanca at the weekend.

Thermometers topped 20 degrees centigrade at Bournemouth Beach on Saturday which became officially the hottest day of the year so far.

Only slightly lower temperatures were recorded yesterday.

And the good news is the sunny weather is forecast to stay for at least the next few days.

Hotel bookings were up 16 per cent in Bournemouth as an estimated 40,000 people packed the beaches on Saturday and Sunday.

Bournemouth tourism director Mark Smith said: “It has been the perfect start to the season with British Summertime starting.

“Most people at this time of year, we find, are thinking about what they are going to do for the rest of the year.

“So if they can see it looking as splendid as it does today, they think, ‘why should we go to all that trouble of holidaying overseas?’ Poole Quay was also packed with visitors over the weekend, with quayside pubs and restaurants reporting a roaring trade.

At Bournemouth Beach, yesterday sunbather Paul Martin, from Poole, told the Daily Echo: “It is just so nice to be able to sit out and relax like this on the beach.

“It was lovely yesterday as well. Who needs the south of France and Spain when we’ve got weather like this?”

Meanwhile, 22-year-old student Melanie Ludlow said: “We’ve hardly had a winter and now the clocks have changed, summertime is on the way.

“There have been plenty of people about, but it hasn’t been too packed – like it can get in the peak summer months.”

Mr Smith said Bournemouth loves welcoming people, “as tourism is the town’s major industry”.

He added: “It is not just important for the seafront. We’ve got our hotels and our entertainment programme that all depend on visitors coming and enjoying themselves.”