|Crowds like this were consistent for two days at this intersection, the appropriately-named Summer Street.|
Garden tourism expert, Richard Benfield, Professor of Geography at the University of Central Connecticut, was here for Garden Walk Buffalo this year. He’s got a forthcoming book, titled Garden Tourism, that makes him a leading authority on this unheralded aspect of tourism in the U.S. — ’cause no one else has a book on it.
|But c’mon — the crowds got to see gardens like this — for free!
Better than any home show, better than any garden show,
not designed by over-the-top designers —
real homeowners without huge budgets.
Because of his insistence to collect zip codes this year (and offer to interpret data for free), we, for the first time, will have real data telling us who’s visiting and we’re they’re coming from. I had each of the three headquarters collecting zips, as well as three gardens in four different areas – one in the Cottage District (thanks Cindy & Peter), one in Allentown (thanks Elizabeth & Alan), one in the Rabine Terrace neighborhood (thanks Jim & Ginny) and my own garden on Lancaster Ave.
We collected 2,864 zip codes from 36 different states and Canada. Outside of NYS, the next three states were, PA, OH & FL, but there were more visitors from Canada than either PA & OH (and from PA, most came from Philadelphia!). We expected, of course, that the majority of visitors would be from the area – Erie and Niagara Counties.
What came as a surprise was how many came from outside the area – a full 24% of the zip codes collected were from visitors outside Erie & Niagara Counties. The Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau was pleasantly surprised, expecting the number to be closer to 10% or so — that means about a quarter of the money spent in the area for Garden Walk is new money — coming from outside the area.
|We kept three, free shuttle buses running continuously
complete with professional tour guides from Buffalo Tours,
which just added to the quality of the overall event.
This was a first blush survey of the zip codes. Next, Richard Benfield will take the information and produce some maps for us to consider as we plan how to reach people that might be interested in attending the garden events in Buffalo. He’ll also be able to do an economic impact study based on the zips — if someone came from 50 miles away, they bought gas; 75 miles away, they bought gas and lunch; 100 miles away they likely bought gas, a few meals and stayed someplace; further away and they may have flown in and spent on other tourism sites and shopping. There’s formulas for all that stuff. Not sure how they can extrapolate all that into an estimated crowd size of 45,000-50,000, but I’m sure there’s formulas for that too.
We also did a more comprehensive 12-question survey and received more than 300 responses. That info will take longer to assess. But you can be sure I’ll be reporting it here.
This is great information for us to have as we go forward looking for grants and sponsors locally, regionally and on a national level. It also helps to justify the impact the Walk has financially to the city, and help convey to others the impact the Walk has on Buffalo’s image outside the area. The Garden Walk committee works very hard throughout the year putting on a quality event and information like this helps justify the efforts.
I’m really anxious to get the economic impact study, because we can then contrast that to the cost of putting on a garden tour like this and come out with a ROI (Return on Investment) and maybe get more help with putting on the Walk from other entities. Sometimes money is not always what’s needed most, but actual help hosting and making things happen.
The Garden Walk committee knows it’s a valuable community asset, but it helps to have it recognized as such by business and political leaders in the area.
Maybe I can get the tree stump that’s been in my hellstrip — for two-plus years — ground out. It’s the least they can do. Calls to the mayor’s complaint line don’t seem to be working.