We didn't write the book on garden tourism, but we're in it!

altThe first-ever book on garden tourism, aptly titled Garden Tourism, is 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.

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.

Garden Walk Buffalo president emeritus, Jim Charlier, wrote an endorsement/quote/review for the back of the book, which reads:

"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.

Richard has 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.

Any successes Buffalo has 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, Jim Charlier, and Cindy Loomis; and the National Garden Festival's volunteers. 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 that all compliment Garden Walk Bufalo, the largest garden tour in the U.S.

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.