As opposed to the detail of the previous post, I have here, and going forward, just some thoughts from different presenters from the North American Garden Tourism Conference held in Toronto last month. As opposed to going over every presentation, I’ll keep it to presentations that relate somehow to my group, Garden Walk Buffalo Niagara, and lessons it can take away from the Conference.
|Longwood gardens is already known for its beauty,
but does not rest on that alone to draw tourists (and their dollars!).
First presentation, after the keynote speaker, was How Longwood Gardens is Making a Tourism Difference by Paul Redman, Executive Director of Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens. They have about 1.2 million visitors to the spectacular gardens, rightly one of the most popular gardens in the U.S.
The former Pierre Du Pont estate, replete with fantastic conservatories, elaborate gardens, towering fountains, organ concerts, and fireworks displays is ever-changing to keep its audiences coming back – for generations. Visiting Longwood Gardens at Christmastime is an annual event for local families, with former kid visitors bringing their own kids when they’re older. As a matter of fact, Paul mentions that Longwood considers there to be five seasons – Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn – and Christmas.
|The “Thousand Flower Tree” is a new attraction bringing
visitors back, and making for a more memorable experience.
In recent years, it has added a popular, 86-acre, scenic, meadow garden – a study in ecological design; the largest living wall in North America (along with a designated “best bathrooms” award!) (photo at top of post); and construction of a multimillion dollar fountain renovation project where visitors can view ongoing construction as it happens, rather than behind walls and fences.
Even more importantly – to me anyway – they have a commitment to achieving an extraordinary guest experience by creating a standard of excellence in service to their guests – following the hotel industry’s lead with guest services. They have a system of professional development for ALL staff – volunteers, students and management, at all levels – which includes measuring customer experience continuously, as well as communicating the results on an ongoing basis. And they’re happy and willing to teach their system to other parks, gardens and organizations.
|Generations of family visitors come back each year for
Christmas.It is a holiday tradition for the region’s population.
I think a big take-away for me from this presentation was the importance of interaction between visitors and the gardeners/volunteers/board/facilitators at all of Garden Walk Buffalo Niagara’s various events – Garden Walk Buffalo (America’s largest garden tour), the Garden Art Sale, Open Gardens, themed bus and bike tours, and more. This year we’re wrangling with merging all these garden experiences under one roof, but future considerations might be to make the quality of the experience consistent, cross-selling all the events consistently, and making the visitor’s experience not just visual interesting with unique and beautiful gardens, but having all interactions with volunteers exceed their expectations.
|New projects keep visitors coming back, like the current
renovations and improvements to their famous fountains.
|Could this be the real secret behind Longwood’s long-term success? A focus on customer service? It works for Disney!|
Garden Walk Buffalo Niagara (GWBN), the Buffalo Niagara region’s garden experience and tourism group was kind enough to sponsor my trip to the Conference. So this series of blog posts is my report to them, and, as GWBN is a public benefit corporation, it is my report to the public.