My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The flourishing of garden tourism - and it's growing!

How often do you amble about a public park or visit a private garden when you travel? Whether you're heading overseas on holidays or doing a staycation at home, are parks and gardens high on your list of things to do? While I spend my fair share of time strolling green spaces when researching guidebooks, I hadn't really considered the popularity of garden tourism until the horticultural tourists visited my aunt and uncle's place last weekend. But garden tourism - whether it's visiting historically significant botanical gardens, famous places in gardening history, or parks and gardens that are simply lovely places to while away some time - is huge. And while it isn't new - wandering the gardens of stately homes and palaces and picnicking in parks was a popular activity of the grand tourists who started traipsing around Europe in the 17th and 18th century; and some of those who stayed on were responsible for some of the Italian Lakes' most impressive gardens (more on those in another post) - and garden tourism is growing.

In the UK, garden tourism takes up the largest patch of turf that makes up Britain's leisure economy - about 10 million people
per year stroll Britain's 3,000 or so public gardens, while 40 million visit historic properties such as the National Trust and English Heritage houses with gardens. In France, around two million visitors amble around 1,000 gardens each year. Garden touring is popular in New Zealand too where gardens are one of the top 10 attractions and activities of visitors to NZ from the UK, Australia, Japan, US and Germany. In Canada, there are about 140 gardens open to the public, and in March this year the Canadian tourism bodies decided to put the development of garden tourism, garden festivals and garden trails high on their agenda. Research shows that one-quarter of Canadian and American tourists reported having visited gardens on their travels and expressed an interest in doing so on future vacations. So why the growth in garden tourism I'm wondering? Is it a reflection of our interest in all things green and in sustainable tourism? Are we all dying to get back to nature and parks and gardens provide the most accessible options? Or does the rise in reality television and home and garden shows have something to do with it? What do you think?


Erica said...

Whenever I traveled in the past, one of the first things I did was finding out whether there was a public park or two in the city. I love gardens as well, especially botanical gardens. Sometimes I miss the botanical garden in Zurich. I went there quite often with the kids I took care of when working in Zurich. As long as they're not crowded I find gardens to be very peaceful.

Lara Dunston said...

HI Erica - well I'm glad someone else likes gardens too. I was beginning to think perhaps I was a bit of a freak for all this reflecting upon gardens... perhaps it's something we all do but not everyone finds it interesting to think about?

Jamie said...

When Nik and I get a map to a city we're visiting, the first thing we look for is the biggest green spot, which normally means a park. For one, these are almost always free or nearly free. But they are also great places to people watch and often have good street food vendors lurking around.

The strange thing about our tendency is that we're city people. We live and work in the city (Shanghai for now) and often chose cities as our travel destinations. Perhaps that is why we crave "green" so much...because the most common materials in our every day life is concrete and glass.

Maybe if we lived in a house with a yard we wouldn't crave it as much?

Lara Dunston said...

HI Jamie

Oh wow, I'm so glad you have told me that - that's great to know.

Parks are fabulous for people-watching, aren't they?! And they all have such different personalities depending on the country and culture - a park in the Middle East for instance is very different to a park in Europe.

Thanks for sharing that!