NEW YORK -- Can flower power help transatlantic travel blossom once
again? Dutch tourism officials and a group of U.S. tour operators
think so, and they're counting on the gigantic Floriade floral
exhibition -- opening in April outside Amsterdam -- to prove them
The once-a-decade event that started in 1962 is considered the
World's Fair of horticultural shows, and it will run for seven
months this year.
Because niche travelers are likely to be among the most willing
to book overseas tours in 2002, several U.S. operators are hoping
retail agents will market Floriade packages to gardening groups and
Mayflower Tours of Downers Grove, Ill., is reporting strong
bookings -- particularly by groups -- of its eight-night
Netherlands & Floriade tour, which combines a day at the flower
show with other sites in Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and
"It's pretty amazing, considering what's going on," said Jill
Carol, director of marketing at Mayflower, referring to post-Sept.
"Still, we need to get the word out to travel agents," she said,
adding that Mayflower took 25 group specialists on a sneak preview
trip last year. "Many more still don't know about Floriade," she
Fresh back from the Mayflower fam, agent Nancy Cox, owner of
Florida Travel Center in Altamonte Springs, Fla., decided to target
the gardening niche for the first time.
"I have clients who are particularly into horticulture, but
everyone seems to be interested in this trip," Cox said, comparing
Floriade to the Passion Play at Oberammergau in Germany.
"It's not something you'll see every time you go," she
In fact, garden enthusiasts are a bit of a captive market, said
Michael Italiaander, president of Litchfield, Conn.-based
speciality operator Expo Garden Tours.
"If gardening's their hobby, they're willing to go -- and don't
say they can do it next year because they can't," he said of the
show, which won't be held again until 2012.
Floriade's organizers initially expected about 100,000 Americans
to be among the 2.5 million estimated showgoers, said Conrad van
Tiggelen, director, North America, for the Netherlands Board of
Tourism in New York.
"But now, after Sept. 11, it's hard to say," he said, adding
that marketing will largely focus on neighboring European
Floriade aims to showcase the best in Dutch and international
gardening, with 300 indoor and outdoor displays and exhibits --
including a valley of flowers planted with more than 1 million
bulbs -- located on more than 160 acres of parkland in the
Haarlemmermeer district, near Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
Using the theme "Feel the Art of Nature," Floriade also will
incorporate pavilions contributed by 26 countries in Asia, Africa,
Europe and the Americas. A futuristic "Green City," housed on four
of 10 man-made islands, will ponder the ecological aspects of life
Floriade 2002 will run from April 6 to Oct. 20, and be open
daily from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
One-day tickets cost about $15 for adults and $7.50 for children
ages 4 to 12; season tickets also are available.
For more information, call (011) 31-23-562-2002, e-mail [email protected] or
Tiptoe through the tulips
Of course, the Netherlands also offers perennial floral
attractions that can be tacked onto any Floriade-focused trip.
For example, the six-night Amsterdam Stay & Floriade tour
from Expo Garden Tours -- which pays 10% to 12% commission --
combines the exposition with visits to such sites as the Aalsmeer
Flower Auction and the 70-acre Keukenhof Gardens, home to 6 million
tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.
Other tours and cruises from operators such as Witte Travel
& Tours, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Uniworld, Encino, Calif., and
Expo Garden Tours also add private garden viewings, the Ledien
Hotus Botanicus garden and other stops to their itineraries.
Lawrence, Kan.-based Maupintour -- which pays 10% to 15%
commission -- crafted, among other itineraries, a seven-night
Chelsea Flower Show & the Floriade program, which combines
floral exhibitions in London and Amsterdam.
Below is a partial list of tour operators that offer Floriade
itineraries. For a complete list, contact the Netherlands Board of
Tourism in New York at (888) 2-HOLLAND.
Expo Garden Tours
Witte Travel & Tours