Promo opportunities bloom at Chelsea

With nearly 160,000 visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show in England, and over half of those in the Cayman Islands tourism target market, the destination is out to make a big impression there with its heritage garden exhibit.

And the opportunities for promotional coverage through various media sources offers the type of advertising that can’t be bought, explained Don McDougall, Regional Manager Europe with the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.

Plant lovers in the United Kingdom will get a first hand look at a Cayman Islands Heritage Sand Garden exhibit showcasing local plants, designed by the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. A Cayman catboat being built by Kem Jackson of the Cayman Maritime Heritage Foundation will also be on display.

The theme will merge cultural aspects and horticultural aspects of the islands.

Probably the most well known garden show in the world, it takes place in London from 20 to 24 May this year.

The display project is an initiative of the Cayman Islands Department of tourism’s UK office, which has a budget of 35,000 to 40,000 British Pounds for the show.

Explaining the thinking behind it, Mr. McDougall said this is a way of influencing the Cayman Islands UK target market by positioning the Cayman Islands in unique way.

One of the main reasons they looked at Chelsea Flower Show was because of its visitor group.

With 157,000 visitors to the flower show each year, 54 per cent of those visitors fall directly into the Cayman Islands target market for its UK visitor. That is, they are older clientele with a household income of at least 100,000 British Pounds or US$200,000 per year.

The remaining percentage of visitors fall just immediately under that target, he said, making it very high end.

‘Our target market is very high end. They are cash rich but time poor,’ Mr. McDougall said.

In other words, they want the best in travel, but they don’t want to have to spend a long time researching where to go.

Aside from the Cayman display gaining first hand recognition from all who visit, the additional media coverage that can come from the show is potentially huge.

Mr. McDougall pointed out that last year the BBC broadcast 10 hours and 50 minutes worth of viewing from the Chelsea Flower show during that week, which would have reached in excess of 10 million people.

This type of coverage includes news reports from the show and BBC Gardeners’ World programmes featuring segments from the show.

‘That’s coverage you cannot buy. It’s the BBC,’ said Mr. McDougall.

In fact, just a one minute feature on BBC1 primetime is something so valuable that it could not be bought, he said.

‘There’s an awful lot of research and strategy that goes into this. We’ve researched what will work and the best medium through which to promote this. Because it’s not blatant advertising, people see it as a true inspiration of where to go,’ he said.

Other media companies such as GMTV and ITN cover the show.

The Royal Horticultural Society listed over 2,000 features from the 2006 show on its website.

Recently three horticultural writers from the UK visited the three islands and their articles will appear in their publications around the same time as the show takes place.

An interesting connection worthy of media attention is the fact that the exhibit is by the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, opened by Her Majesty in 1994 and named after her. She visits the Chelsea Flower Show annually and tours it.

British Airways is assisting in the transportation of the exhibit and along with local garden experts from the Botanic Park, a garden specialist in the UK will be advising on quarantine procedures for the plants and the planting of them at the show.

The display will be a smaller replica of the park’s Heritage Garden and will include a Silver Thatch Palm and a host of other authentic plants in the heritage garden.

This is the type of promotional advertising that can deliver a much higher awareness than standard advertising, Mr. McDougall said.

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