Garden and Horticultural Tourism

The tourism sector of commercial horticulture is an interesting field to work in with roles to suit many different people. Some people work primarily in event planning, organising garden shows or tours for a variety of garden promoters. Others work full time at particular venues where they run information workshops, tours and seminars. 



Scope of Work

Estimates indicate over 300 million people a year travel to visit gardens or garden related events such as shows, festivals and conferences.

Work in garden tourism can include:

Managing Garden Tours - Planning, organising, marketing, guided tours

Event Management - Garden shows, garden/plant festivals, trade conferences

Attractions Management - Developing and maintaining significant gardens

Providing Services - Garden-themed accommodation, food services (e. garden cafes), gift shops, interacting with public, conducting workshops

People working in tourism in commercial horticulture can offer formal or informal education through tours, historic walks, signage, production of books and leaflets, or talks to local or national television and radio.

Arranging garden shows may involve making up displays and signs which provide information and advice to those who read them, or creating pamphlets full of information to help educate the reader.  

Horticulture tourism educators may work in a variety of settings from stately homes to private gardens and tour operators.


What You Need to Learn

Plant knowledge - Knowledge of plant species & cultivars, identification & cultural characteristics of many  varieties (500 -2,000), including turf and weed species

General garden management - Knowledge of basic garden maintenance, dealing with maintenance contractors, watering frequency and duration, management and use of irrigation, biosecurity

Garden history - Awareness of the evolution of garden design, different garden styles, significance of famous gardens and gardeners, botanists & plant discoveries

Event management - Knowledge of how to arrange tours & garden events, liaising with event contractors  

Sales skills - How to interact with customers, sell tours, earn repeat business, network with tour operators, make bookings, keep inventories, marketing, advertising

Health & safety - Assessment of risks & hazards, use of personal protective equipment, fire alarms & drills, location of first aid kits, basic first aid procedures  

Project management - Knowledge of how to plan & organise tours and projects, event management, liaising with event contractors

Specific knowledge - Additional knowledge in areas of expertise


Starting a Career

A lot of people who end up working as tourism educators do so by first doing other things. Some come into this area of work later in life having had other jobs and careers within or outside horticulture where they may have accumulated specialist knowledge.

Some garden or horticulture tour guides and operators start out as employees in a garden centre or similar environment as a non-skilled member of staff but eventually move towards the tourism side of things. Others may begin by working in other fields like travel, history, or teaching but are compelled towards gardens, parks or cityscapes.    

Another possibility is to get general gardening experience through working for a local gardening club or volunteering to help maintain the grounds at a local site. Going to trade shows and garden events can also be good ways to network and get a feel for what openings might be out there in terms of garden tourism.

Once you have gained enough experience you may be able to take on more responsibility and be trusted with running walks or short tours.

You could also consider doing some study whilst working part-time to try and move on faster.


Progressing a Career

Educators in tourism have to learn about what it is they are presenting to the public. But to remain interesting, it is wise to update knowledge and to try to find out more about your area or areas of interest.

Even those who have been running tours for some time never remain static. The onus is often on the individual to continually learn and to find new ways of presenting information, although those employed by higher end businesses may be offered in-house training or funding to attend seminars and workshops where they can upgrade their skills.

To advance a career, tourism educators must learn about new research relevant to their industry, changes in laws and regulations, and new technology. A good way to fill any gaps in your knowledge is through attending workshops and seminars, or undertaking further study, especially courses which cover the points listed under ‘things you need to know’ above.

Those who are educators with specialist knowledge will need to keep that knowledge current. Joining trade associations or bodies is a good way to keep up to date with current trends and technological advancements in the industry. Attending garden shows, tourism conferences and trade shows is another way to learn by networking with like-minded people.

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