February 15, 2009
By Carol Cowan
Member of organizing committee

Gardens are a tourism product. Whether tourists come from around the corner, or the other side of the world, the raison d’être for any garden is to be seen, visited, enjoyed and admired.

With this philosophy as the driving force, the first-ever Canadian Gardens and Tourism Conference will bring together delegates from the garden and tourism related industries to improve communication with each industry’s needs in order to improve growth for both segments.  

For the past three years, the VIA Rail Garden Route (www.viarail.ca/garden) has linked 15 gardens and 32, five-bloom award winning Communities in Bloom destinations along the track from Victoria to Halifax. The attraction has generated all kinds of interest and participation from the public.

At the same time, this program has made the garden industry realize that a common or coordinated strategy does not exist when it comes to promoting the garden experience to the tourism clientele. Statistics gathered in a survey by Travel Activities and Motivation in 2001, show that approximately 50 per cent of American and Canadian tourists include some type of garden experience as part of their travel plans.

With more than 40 per cent of Canada’s Garden Route located in Ontario and “with 4.4 million Canadian and 10.4 million American travelers indicating that garden attractions impact their interest in Ontario as a destination,” Landscape Ontario, decided to take leadership and organize Canada’s inaugural gardens and tourism conference in partnership with Communities in Bloom, the Toronto Botanical Garden and the Quebec Gardens’ Association. It will take place at the Delta Chelsea Hotel in Toronto from March 15 to 17, 2009, in conjunction with Canada Blooms.

The one-and-a-half day conference will feature national and international speakers, and be co-hosted by Canadian gardening world luminaries Alexander Reford and Marjorie Harris. It is presented by VIA Rail Canada and sponsored by the Royal Botanical Gardens. Registration includes the opportunity to purchase half-price tickets to Canada Blooms’ Opening Gala on the night of March 17th.

This Canadian conference is inspired by the European Gardens and Tourism Conference, organized by the Gardens Without Frontiers Network. Hosted in Metz, France every second year, the European event shows consistent attendance of about 450 delegates. The Canadian Gardens and Tourism Conference will also be held every second year, alternating with the event hosted in Metz.

The purpose of the Conference is seven-fold:
  • Bring together delegates from the garden and tourism industries to better understand each other’s needs in order to grow both industries.
  • Explore and better understand the relative trends of each industry.
  • Get a sense of what is happening on the international garden scene.
  • Explore what the tourism industry needs and expects from gardens in order to better integrate them in their product mix and offering.
  • Explore what the garden industry needs to do to in order to make the garden experience more viable as a tourism product.
  • Examine promotional opportunities and strategies with which to better position gardens to Canadian and non-Canadian tourists.
  • Explore the possibility of creating a Canadian Garden Coalition.

“The Gardens and Tourism Conference will be a wonderful opportunity to meet with people from across the country who share a commitment and devotion to the complimentary worlds of gardens and tourism,” says Raymond Carriere, president of Communities in Bloom.

It is felt that the conference will appeal to those who manage gardens and garden experiences; destinations that offer a garden experience or are interested in developing a garden experience as part of their tourism offering; and tourism industry members interested in integrating or enhancing their garden experience offering.

“If you are one of the audiences, then this conference should be at the top of your list of things to do in March 2009,” says Landscape Ontario’s executive director Tony DiGiovanni.

To register, and for details on the exciting national and international speaker line-up, visit: www.gardensandtourismconference.com

Studies show a large portion of tourists are looking for some type of garden experience in their travel plans.
Toronto Botanical Garden is one of the partrners in the first-ever garden tourism conference.