Bok Tower Gardens (BTG) is located in Lake Wales, between Tampa and Orlando, and offers the Singing Tower, the gardens, the Pine Ridge Trail and the Pinewood Estate along with a visitor center and a café. BTG stretches nearly 50 acres of Olmsted Gardens and is built on Iron Mountain, one of the highest points in Peninsular Florida. The Gardens is listed as a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. BTG recorded 149,888 visits in 2011, slightly more than its 2002‐2010 average of 133,045. Increasing total visitation is an important goal for BTG. At the request of BTG, the Dick Pope Sr. Institute for Tourism Studies at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida explored the impact of visitors' experience on their post behavioral intentions to return to the garden or to talk favorably about the garden. This report is not an evaluation of efforts to increase visitation. The report is exploratory in nature with its central intent being to assist BTG management in framing the visitor experience and develop responsive and proactive strategies to make visits enjoyable and to increase attendance and revenues. The research results reveal that there are three distinct groups visiting BTG. Group 1 is very affluent, young, educated, first timers, and mainly from the Lake Wales area. These respondents seem to be explorers and adventurers and are named the Young Explorers. Group 2 is blue collar, young, less educated, and is mainly from Orlando (27%) and Lakeland (27%). This group is looking for something to do and is called the Neighboring Blue Collars. Group 3 is mature, loyal, educated and affluent and is predominantly from the Lake Wales area. This group is called the Loyal Boomers. The Young Explorers represented 32.6% of the total respondents, while the Neighboring Blue Collars and Loyal Boomers accounted for 28.9% and 38.5% of the respondents, respectively. BTG has faced a challenge of developing and maintaining a clear and recognizable identity over time. Restating the BTG identity is timely. The garden is conceived as being different in time and space (enjoyment) with a pleasant environment and a convenient place of knowledge (activities). The meaning of the Gardens as conceived by the survey respondents is clear: rest is joy and joy is the result of actively co‐creating the Gardens. In other words, the visitor is no longer a person who just visits to gaze or to passively wander through the Gardens, but a visitor is an individual who would like to be involved, to understand, to learn how nature can offer him a happier and more complete life. This is a critical thinking process. Bok's story therefore is not the garden but the cultural landscape. The shift from garden to cultural landscape is demanded by youngsters. This group already constitutes one out of three visitors and seems underwhelmed by their experience at the BTG. The youngsters' experience can be shaped at two specific points at the garden: the café and souvenirs. The analysis suggests that BTG should consider developing visitor experiences that reflect: lifestyle and knowledge based offerings; promoting activities more effectively to the youngsters; and, paying more attention to the intangible aspects of the garden experience, such as staff competency in shaping and facilitating stories about BTG. The program for relevance bears the message that the purpose of the creation of Bok was not just creating but that it has an end, a goal. The garden was so created that we may find rest within the garden visit while accomplishing joy. It is the main task of the current management to create reality beyond that of beautiful vision – not by changing the physical configuration of the garden, but by shaping the outcome of the experience. That outcome promulgates a search for meaning for younger visitors and a reflection of meaning for the more mature visitor.
- Bok Tower Gardens, National Register of Historic Places,
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/valeriya-shapoval/4/