A critical analysis of gardens as a resource for tourism and recreation in the UK
Garden visiting has become a popular leisure pursuit in recent years. Within a tourism and recreation context, scant research exists on the subject of gardens as recreational resources and the manner in which they are presented to and consumed by the public. This thesis explores the scope and nature of gardens as tourism and recreation resources in the UK. The thesis examines the conceptual foundations of the garden, in order to establish what reasons explain predisposition towards garden visiting, and why gardens provide a desirable environment in which people want to spend leisure time. The activity of garden visiting is analysed using a two-dimensional approach, which takes into account the supply of gardens open to the public and the demand for garden visits. In this respect, the supply-side relates to the perceptions of garden owners/mangers, while the demand aspect is linked with the outlook of garden visitors. Uniting these two perspectives yields an intriguing area of research, that of the visitor experience, how that experience is perceived and managed, and which elements are crucial in its formation. Understanding the visitor experience is a critical for operators of garden attractions, in line with all attractions. This thesis presents the results of two surveys, one of garden owners/managers (n=546) and one of garden visitors (n=593). Data analysis provides a source of information on the range and characteristics of gardens open to the public, approaches to managing the visitor experience and issues for owners/managers in relation to operating a garden visitor attraction as well as visitors characteristics, motivations, behaviour and perceptions of the garden experience. The data generated allows the identification of a range of themes and implications for the operators of garden attractions, in particular those issues that will influence future development.