Create a “UK Garden City” initiative to boost untapped potential of garden tourism to UK economy, says DCMS Committee.
New report concludes that garden tourism has much more economic potential which is yet to be exploited and that gardens should be formally recognised as part of the UK’s creative sector.
The government should launch a ‘UK Garden City’ initiative in order to boost the support for garden tourism and maximise the benefits it brings to the economy, says a new report by the Digital, Culture Media and Sport Committee.
Garden tourism generates almost £3billion in GDP to the UK. In this new report, MPs highlight that although gardens make up a significant part of tourism revenue and contribute significantly to the UK’s international standing, they agree that the benefits the sector brings are “not properly understood” and “underestimated in financial, social and cultural terms.”*
The Committee makes wide-ranging recommendations to the government and arms lengths bodies, include VisitBritain, to boost the untapped potential of the garden industry to the UK.
Steps that the Government and other bodies could take to enable the garden tourism to thrive:
The benefits that the City of Culture initiative brings to local areas is well-evidenced. The creation of a "UK Garden City" competition as a counterpart to this would raise the profile of garden tourism. The DCMS Department should scope out how such an initiative could work in the next twelve months, with a view to launching the first competition before the end of 2020.
The DCMS Department should convene a new taskforce including representatives from VisitBritain and the gardening sector to better co-ordinate garden tourism marketing activity. They should meet before the end of 2019.
The DCMS Department and Visit Britain should increase the evidence base for garden tourism, including tracking the ongoing economic contribution of the sector and including such data in official department estimates. This could be done within the new Tourism Data Hub recently announced since the launch of the Committee’s inquiry.
Local Enterprise Partnerships are a key vehicle for driving local economic growth and could play an important role in spreading the benefits of garden tourism more evenly across England. The DCMS and VisitBritain should build on the April 2019 guidance to Local Enterprise Partnerships by more explicitly championing garden tourism, and proactively seeking to ensure that tourism is included in the local 10 industrial strategies of areas that contain the 20 most visited gardens outside London.
Damian Collins, Chair of the DCMS Committee said:
“Britain’s gardens are part of what make Britain great. It’s time for the garden design and tourism industries to be properly recognised for the significant contribution they makes to our economy. It was clear from the evidence that there is so much potential here that needs to be tapped in to.”
“That’s why in this report we’re calling for the government to create a UK Garden City competition (similar to UK City of Culture initiative) give a boost to the marketing for gardens and better track the sectors contribution to the economy.”
The DCMS Committee held an evidence session at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, examining the contribution of gardens to the UK’s economy. The Committee questioned representatives from the National Trust, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Royal Horticultural Society, Royal Parks and Visit Britain about how gardens attract visitors, support the economy, and what more support the government could provide to the industry. They also explored issues around the sustainability of the sector and the UK’s place in the garden design industry.
In 2018 there were 37.9 million overseas visitors who came to the UK. Almost one third of all visits to the UK include a trip to a garden or park, and there have been annual increases in garden day trips in England every year since 5 2014.
A 2018 study showed that the UK’s parks and gardens industry contributed £2.9 billion to the national GDP in 2017. ONS data showed that in 2016, 11.9 million inbound tourism trips to the UK involved at least one visit to a park or public garden – around one-third (32 percent) of all inbound visits in that year.
Source: Oxford Economics report on the Economic Impact of ornamental horticulture and landscaping in the UK.
*Evidence from the National Garden Scheme