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Attracting ‘Green’ Tourists To Your Garden

Volume 1 Number 1 - April 2004
Sarah Kneebone

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As global awareness of ‘green’ issues, such as sustainability, grows, so do demands by the public for holidays and excursions that adhere to the principles of sustainable development and environmental tourism.  For example, 80% of UK holiday makers say that it is important that their holiday does not damage the environment, 80% of German tourists stated that quality environmental conditions were important in selecting a destination and in the USA domestic and international travellers made 287 million recreation visits to National Park Service sites in 1998 which generated economic benefits for local communities of $14.2 billion and supported almost 300,000 tourist-related jobs (Stevens 2002).

This article examines a range of success factors for the implementation of a sustainable tourism policy within a botanic garden. As we have seen in other articles in this issue, tourists are an important element of visitors for botanic gardens.  The potential for all botanic garden to become visitor destinations is huge.  We welcome your views and thoughts on this and in particular how you see the implementation of sustainable tourism in your garden.  

As global awareness of ‘green’ issues, such as sustainability, grows, so do demands by the public for holidays and excursions that adhere to the principles of sustainable development and environmental tourism.  Consider the following statistics:

  • 80% of UK holiday makers say that it is important that their holiday does not damage the environment (MORI 2000)
  • 80% of German tourists stated that quality environmental conditions were important in selecting a destination
  • In the USA, domestic and international travellers made 287 million recreation visits to National Park Service sites in 1998.  Travel to these areas generated direct and indirect economic impact for local communities of $14.2 billion and supported almost 300,000 tourist-related jobs during 1996 (Stevens 2002)

Botanic gardens are uniquely placed to offer the kind of experiences that more ‘environmentally aware’ visitors desire.  The question is, how can gardens attract them?  For ideas and inspiration take a look at the following table which identifies a range of success factors for the implementation of a sustainable tourism policy, based on research carried out on sustainable tourism in National Parks in the U.K.

Sustainable Tourism in Botanic Gardens – a Checklist

The main elements and related activities which need to be carried out to ensure your garden will embrace the ethics of sustainable tourism are given in the table below.  
 

Elements  AimsActivities 
1. Resource ManagementProtect, maintain and enhance local environmental quality
  • Prepare visitor management plan and vision statement.
  • Take action to protect sensitive sites – both within the garden and at any other projects in the locality with which the gardens is involved.
  • Record visitor numbers and behaviour; how long do they spend in the garden, which areas do they visit, what do they do e.g. interact with guides, or use the gift shop.
  • Monitor sensitive sites within your gardens and externally – are they affected by your visitors? If so, how can you minimise visitor impact?
  • Assess environmental impact of any proposed developments and visitor use, from new toilets to a new access road.
  • Understand relationships between visitors and the resource, how do they regard the gardens, what do they learn from their visit, why do they come?
2. MarketingInfluence scale, nature and type of tourism in response to environmental and local factors
  • Avoid promotion of sensitive and fragile sites.
  • Involve local tourism operators.
  • Involve environmental agencies.
  • Extend the season to spread impact and benefit where appropriate, so that the numbers of visitors is as even as possible throughout the year.
  • Monitor impact of marketing – how do visitors know about your garden?  Where do they find out about it from – leaflets, posters or a website?
  • Develop partnerships and packages to promote appropriate tourism products, taking into account scale, volume, character and location
3. Education
Increase awareness about sustainability.  Influence visitor behaviour to reduce negative impact on the environment.  Influence tour operators to incorporate sustainable practices in their operations.
  • Promote sustainable messages to visitors – e.g. through interpretation, guided tours and education programmes.
  • Raise awareness of conservation issues
  • Emphasise special character of area through imaginative interpretation.
  • Run training course for tour operators.
4. TransportReduce the use and impact of cars and encourage alternative forms of transport
  • Promote and encourage the use of public transport to and from the site.
  • Improve services to meet the needs of visitors as well as residents
  • Understand consumer traffic patterns
  • Encourage alternative forms of travel within the area.
5. CommunityInvolve local people in shaping tourism policy and decisions
  • Encourage and support community tourism forums/groups
  • Support community based environmental initiatives
  • Involve the community in drawing up visitor management plans
  • Engage community councils
  • Involve locally elected members
6. Local benefitIncrease local economic contribution from tourism
  • Promote local purchasing initiatives
  • Set up networks of local producers
  • Assist local businesses to get more from tourism
  • Use locally sourced products and food in the visitor centre, shop and cafes.
  • Involve local crafts people, artists and designers in all aspects of marketing
7. Tourism industryReduce the environmental impact of the local tourism industry and maximise the benefit to local operators
  • Encourage adoption of environmental good practice
  • Introduce environmental award scheme for other local businesses to become involved in
  • Provide environmental advice, training and business development
  • Raise enterprises’ awareness of their local environment
  • Stimulate local supply chains
  • Develop local package to promote environmental or sustainable travel / activities / holidays within the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Original source; Stevens, 2002.  Adapted to include elements relevant to botanic gardens.

Finally - To keep in mind if your sustainability programme is to bear fruit:

  1. Be aware that development aimed at increasing numbers of visitors can adversely impact the surrounding environment, the very thing that you want people to come and see – particularly due to increased travel from and within the local area.
  2. New facilities are sometimes abused by unthinking and inconsiderate visitors. The rule that ‘if you can’t maintain it, don’t build it’ is a cardinal principal of tourism development.
  3. Economists say that tourism should not be allowed to grow to an extent that the destination area becomes totally dependant on it – this includes botanic gardens.  Is your garden totally dependant on tourism or would it survive on donations and visitors from the local community?  If not, what are the ways to try and counteract this?

(Adapted from ‘Learn about the Issues’ Georgia Nature-Based Tourism Association)

As we have seen in other articles in this issue, tourists are an important element of visitors for botanic gardens. The potential for all botanic garden to become visitor destinations is huge.  We welcome your views and thoughts on this and in particular how you see the implementation of sustainable tourism in your garden.  

References

Georgia Nature-Based Tourism Association http://www.georgianature.org/issues/
Stevens, T. 2002.  Sustainable tourism in National Parks and protected areas: An overview.  Scottish Natural Heritage

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Alors qu’une prise de conscience globale des questions d’environnement se développe, de même augmente la demande du public pour des vacances ou des excursions qui respectent les principes du développement durable et du tourisme vert. Par exemple, 80% des organisateurs de vacances britanniques disent qu’il est important que leurs vacances ne causent pas de dommages à l’environnement et 80% des touristes allemands déclarent que de bonnes conditions environnementales sont importantes dans le choix d’une destination. Aux Etats Unis, les voyageurs américains ou étrangers ont effectué, en 1998, 287 millions de visites dans des sites gérés par les Services des Parcs Nationaux, ce qui a généré des bénéfices économiques pour les populations locales de 14,2 milliards de dollars et a rémunéré près de 300 000 emplois liés au tourisme (Stevens 2002).

Cet article analyse une série de facteurs favorables à la mise en place d’une politique de tourisme durable au sein des jardins botaniques. Comme nous l’avons vu dans d’autres articles de ce numéro, les touristes constituent une proportion importante des visiteurs des jardins botaniques. Le potentiel pour que tous les jardins botaniques deviennent des destinations de visiteurs est énorme. Nous attendons vos points de vue et suggestions à ce sujet et en particulier comment vous voyez la mise en place d’un tourisme durable dans votre jardin.

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Tal como la toma de conciencia global sobre aspectos “verdes” y como la sustentabilidad van en aumento, así también la demanda del público que busca vacaciones y excursiones acordes al desarrollo sustentable y al turismo ambiental. Por ejemplo, 80% de los vacacionistas del Reino Unido piensan que es importante que sus vacaciones no dañen el ambiente; 80% de los turistas alemanes señalan que la calidad de las condiciones ambientales fueron importantes para seleccionar el destino y en Estados Unidos, los viajeros nacionales e internacionales realizaron en 1998, 287 millones de visitas recreativas en sitios del Servicio de Parques Nacionales (National Park Service) las cuales generaron beneficios económicos para las comunidades locales por $14.2 billones creando alrededor de 300 000 empleos relacionados con el turismo (Stevens 2002).

Este artículo explora una serie de factores de éxito para la implementación de políticas de turismo sustentable  en los jardines botánicos. Como se ha observado en otros artículos de este número, los turistas constituyen un elemento importante de los visitantes de los jardines botánicos. El potencial que tienen los jardines para convertirse en destino turístico es enorme. Agradecemos su punto de vista y sus reflexiones acerca de esto y en particular sobre su visión para desarrollar turismo sustentable en su jardín.   

About the Author

Sarah Kneebone is the Education Officer at BGCI.

This article has been produced with the kind permission of Professor T. Stevens using his report on sustainable tourism.  Stevens & Associates are specialist tourism consultants and can be contacted on info@stevensassoc.co.uk