Sunday, August 4, 2013

Garden Tourism the book is out, and Buffalo's part of it

The first-ever book on garden tourism, aptly titled Garden Tourism, is finally out. The book, written by Dr. Richard Benfield, Associate Professor of Geography at the Central Connecticut State University, is an academic tome covering the history of and the evolving of garden tourism from early Egyptian times (around 1,500 BCE), to the time the book was published earlier this year. It's exhaustive.

My babies Garden Walk Buffalo and Buffalo's National Garden Festival
get a page-and-a-half in the first-ever book on garden tourism.
And Garden Walk Buffalo and Buffalo's National Garden Festival were well represented with a page and a half! In the chapter titled "Outdoor Garden Festivals" there is a brief intro on the origins of Garden Walk Buffalo–its byproduct/outgrowth the National Garden Festival–and stats and research data we've collected over the years from zip code collection and consumer surveys with the help and financial support of Visit Buffalo Niagara.

Richard, who has visited Garden Walk Buffalo, and visited Buffalo on other occasions, is a great advocate for the garden tourism efforts we're putting forth.

Along with the entry on Garden Walk and the Garden Festival, Richard had some kind words about me in his preface, and had me write an endorsement/quote/review for the back of the book, which reads:


The back of the book has a quote from me.
I may have to buy one for my mother.
"For botanical garden directors, public and private park professionals, festival organizers, and garden tour organizers like me, it's the first academic look into the audiences, their behaviors and their economic impact...Dr. Richard Benfield has produced the ultimate guide to horticultural tourism"
-Jim Charlier, past president of Garden Walk Buffalo, co-founder of the National Garden Festival, and advertising and marketing professional


Other endorsements on the back cover were by Casey Sclar, Ph.D., Executive Director, American Public Gardens Association and Susan Lacerte, Executive Director, Queens Botanical Gardens.

The book is primarily to recognize and quantify garden visitation as an important aspect of tourism, along with other types of tourism (history, art, architecture, foodie, etc.) and to be a reference for directors and marketers of botanical gardens, public parks, garden event planners, tourism professionals, flower show organizers, garden tour organizers – pretty much anyone working in the realm of public gardens and garden-related events.

It was estimated that over 120 million people visited gardens worldwide in 2000. If garden events/tours were included, the number would reach more than 300 million–compare that to the 335 million people that visited amusement parks in 2007. Total revenues for admittance to garden attractions has never been measured, but it is known that Americans spent $34 billion on plants, tools and supplies in 2005 – $11 billion in flowers alone! Compared to the amusement park industry with U.S. revenues of $12 billion in 2007, or even casinos–with revenue of $35 billion in 2005–that gardening is a dominant leisure activity. Tourism is the world's number one industry. And garden tourism is a significant part of it. This information was not even a full paragraph's worth of Richard's research and writing. The book is jam-packed with facts, figures, anecdotes, charts, graphs and photos. And footnotes. Lots of footnotes.

Photo by Elizabeth Licata.
I initially called Richard many years ago when I was researching garden tourism and found very little information available. I did find this book, Garden Tourism, but it had a publication date two years in the future. So I tracked him down and called him up. He told me he was the leading national expert on garden tourism, mostly because there was no one else. And he told me that, since I was asking great questions, I could be number two. We've been friends ever since.

He's gotten Buffalo on the radar of the International Garden Tourism Conference, where the National Garden Festival won the 2013 International Garden Tourism Promotion Award. - among winners in France, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, England and Japan. All I've gotten for him was a good meal, a couple dark beers at Betty's restaurant and a clean room to stay in when he's coming through Buffalo.

I do have to insert here that any successes we've had in horticultural tourism are due to the hundreds of gardeners and volunteer garden tour organizers. A special shout out to Garden Walk Buffalo's past and current boards (too numerous to mention!) and past and current presidents Arlan Peters and Cindy Loomis; and the National Garden Festival's Linda Garwol, Sylvia Nealon, Marlene Liberti, Rita Ippolito, Sharon Adler, Marg Rust, Margaret Kraup, Kathy Guest Shadrack, Michael Shadrack, Barbara Maze, Craig Coyne, Peggy Dryden, and the members of the WNYS Landscape & Nursery Association). They, and dozens more volunteers, do the work of garden tourism. Their ideas, energy and enthusiasm is what drives the 15 community garden tours of nearly 1,000 gardens, 80 Thursday/Friday Open Gardens, a public space garden makeover, a garden art sale, educational events, garden bike tours, and bus tours of gardens.

And large credit goes to great advocates like Thomas Herrera-Mishler, President and CEO of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy; David Swarts, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Erin Grajek, Director of Marketing at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens; Dottie Gallagher Cohen, President and CEO of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise; the lovely and talented Sally Cunningham, Buffalo News and Buffalo Spree columnist, WIVB-TV4 on-air garden personality, garden book author and director of the National Garden Festival; Elizabeth Licata, editor of Buffalo Spree magazine and GardenRant.com contributing writer; Mary Anne Kresse; The WNY Landscape and Nursery Association (especially Neil Stern); the Master Gardeners of the Erie County Cornell Cooperative Extension; Barbara Hughes of AAA; and many others.

But most of all to the staff of Visit Buffalo Niagara (our visitors bureau) - Matt Steinberg, Peter Burakowski, Karen Fashana, Leah Mueller, Cindy Kincaide, Dave Marzo, Michelle Butlak, Denise Drews, with a special shout out to Ed Healy, VP for Marketing. Without Ed's support and enthusiasm we would be nowhere – and we're even turning him into a gardener (albeit slowly).

And all credit goes to where it all began–with Marvin Lunenfeld and his wife Gail McCarthy, founders of Garden Walk Buffalo 20 years ago.

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