AMBITUOUS plans are well underway to boost tourism in the Cotswolds with the aim of the area becoming the third most popular destination in the country.

As part of the initiative, the Cotswold Tourism partnership is offering all accommodation businesses across the region the opportunity to join its membership scheme.

Businesses - regardless of whether they are currently accredited via Quality in Tourism, AA or other schemes - will qualify for membership provided they comply with a new accommodation quality charter.

All members who join the membership scheme will be listed on the website which links directly to the VisitEngland website.

Rob Rees, Chairman of the Tourism Sector Group for Cotswolds Tourism Partnership, said: “This is a great deal for everyone involved in the local tourist industry. The website attracted over one million visits during 2013 – double the total in 2012 – and clearly boosted our visitor numbers. "We expect it will go from strength to strength, especially with the 2015 Rugby World Cup around the corner and many fans expressing a strong interest in combining sport with sightseeing, shopping and dining in the area.”

The partnership is also working towards the production of a phone app and electronic version of the 2015 Cotswold visitor guide when it is launched towards the end of this year.