Community News

Grafton’s Jacaranda trees have attracted global attention. Credit: Keyko Design

Grafton’s Jacaranda Season goes global

Grafton’s Jacaranda Season is well on its way to becoming one of Australia’s must-visit events, following a record-breaking season that almost broke the internet. The full bloom of Grafton’s jacaranda trees attracted record crowds to the purple city this year. Over the three-week season, streams of visitors arrived by car, tour bus, plane, train, and even by boat up the Clarence River, to take photos and wander through the streets lined with 1700 Jacaranda trees in full bloom. Accommodation providers in Grafton turned on ‘no vacancy’ signs over the peak of the season and many businesses broke sales records. I-Scream ice creamery on Prince Street was a major tourist attraction for its popular purple ice cream. Owner, Jeff Smith, said they broke sales records two weekends in a row. “Previous years saw most people ordering one scoop with three to five spoons, but this year most people are buying one scoop in a cone each and then taking selfies,” Mr Smith said. Clarence Valley Council’s economic development team has been promoting Jacaranda Season all year to increase tourist numbers to the region and stimulate the local economy. Economic development coordinator, Elizabeth Fairweather, said survey data indicated a lot of the Jacaranda visitors stayed at least one night in the region, and all of them were spending money in the town so it really paid to entice them here. “Once visitors are in Grafton, many go on to visit other places in the Clarence Valley, so Jacaranda Season not only boosts Grafton’s economy, but the entire region,” she said. Survey data also confirmed most visitors travelled from Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast to see the flowers, with about half of those surveyed of Chinese heritage. Jacaranda Season was promoted to international visitors on Chinese social media platforms, WeChat, with more than one billion monthly active users, and Weibo, with more than 150 million daily users. ‘Convenience’ advertising has become a Jacaranda marketing tradition, with humorous advertisements displayed in the rest rooms at international and domestic airports in Sydney and Brisbane six months out from Jacaranda Season. “We’re always getting feedback from people saying they’ve seen the ads in the airport toilets so they really do work,” Mrs Fairweather said. Over the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend a video showcasing Grafton’s purple trees played on a big screen in Sydney’s CBD to an audience of more than one million people. Clarence Valley tourism’s social media platform, My Clarence Valley, also promoted the purple season. Jacaranda posts on My Clarence Valley were shared around the world, reaching hundreds of thousands of people and engaging with tens of thousands of people, many specifically asking for directions to visit Grafton. Tourism Australia also had success promoting Grafton’s Jacarandas on its social media pages, with 130,000 people liking a photo of the Purple City on Instagram, and 18,000 people sharing the same image on Facebook. “That’s a lot of eyes on the Clarence Valley right now,” Mrs Fairweather said. “It also means Grafton is being used to market Australia to the world, alongside Uluru, kangaroos, and the Great Barrier Reef, which is something to be proud of.” On the ground, Jacaranda Season and the Jacaranda Festival attracted visits from Destination NSW, Channel Seven’s Better Homes and Gardens show, Chinese media, a Qantas-led group of Chinese travel agents and influential travel bloggers from around the world. “Jacaranda Season is one of the biggest events we have on the Clarence Valley calendar and we believe it has the potential to grow into a major national attraction,” Mrs Fairweather said. When he wasn’t serving purple ice cream, Mr Smith was also the president of the Grafton Jacaranda Festival. He said the festival appreciated all council did to promote their event and the Jacaranda Season, and he looked forward to growing the event into the future. “As we develop the festival, it is great to have Council working proactively with us on the promotion component of the mix,” Mr Smith said.