Garden Tourism is a major tourist sector. One third of tourists around the world visit at least one garden when on vacation and garden centre customers visit at least one garden a year.
These are some of the facts that Prof Richard Benfield revealed when he conducted a series of workshops in Western Australia during July.
Richard is the “garden tourism” guru, based at Central Connecticut State University where he is the lecturer on the subject he is also the author of the bestselling book “Garden Tourism”.
He was invited by John Stanley, John Stanley Associates to present three workshops, one in Geraldton, one in Perth and one in Nannup. Over 100 delegates from the garden and tourism industry were presented with ideas on the opportunities garden tourism can offer the nursery industry and the local economy.
Richard’s overall view, after visiting a number of gardens, was that the gardens of Western Australia were superb, the passionate grass roots enthusiasm was as strong as anywhere in the world, but the support from “peak” bodies in the tourism industry were neglecting the opportunities. This is especially important when you consider that the garden tourist is one that also visits restaurants, historic sites and natural areas.
The workshop session at the end of Richard’s presentation developed strategies to engage all interested parties to grow the garden tourism awareness, both at a State level with key tourism planners, but also to encourage networking at a local level to provide a total experience for the visitor.
The average person spends two and a half hours visit a garden. Richard pointed out it is one of the major tourist attractions, with visitors getting “hooked” at the age of 25 and then maintaining that enthusiasm through their life.
In the USA more people go to gardens than go to Las Vegas or the Disney sites during the year. Plus on a garden visit on average they spend $185 a day to help the local economy.
John and Richard are writing a discussion paper as a result of the workshops. This document will be available in the near future and will be presented to “peak” bodies to encourage them to work with the garden sector to develop the tourism sector.
Garden tourism is the second fastest growing tourism sector after food tourism and one where garden centres and nurseries can benefit from the exposure to gardens. Garden owners are garden visitors and the opportunity to develop the market in Australia is exciting.
It is hoped that Richard will return to Australia in eighteen months time to study the developments that have taken place since his July visit.