Tourism in WNY losing out on millions

Tourism season begins in Niagara Falls but millions will be lost in tourism revenues

Mike Baggerman
July 01, 2020 - 11:00 pm
Rainbow Air helicopters (Rainbow Air Photo/Pat Proctor)

Rainbow Air helicopters (Rainbow Air Photo/Pat Proctor)

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WBEN) – 2020 will wind up as arguably the most difficult year for tourism officials in Niagara Falls because of the millions of dollars that will be lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, Destination Niagara USA and the various tourism companies in Niagara Falls are trying to salvage whatever opportunities they have to get locals to support them and are still hoping that people from outside of New York State can visit them.

Destination Niagara USA and other companies announced on Wednesday the official start of tourism season because they were eligible to reopen under phase four of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s economic reopening plan.

“We were present in all of our markets to make sure Niagara Falls was, first and foremost, in their minds while they were home searching and looking for travel in the future,” John Percy, Destination Niagara USA President, said.  

Percy said there is optimism in the future of tourism in Niagara Falls because of website traffic that leads them to believe that people intend to visit. This includes a 109 percent increase in overall visits to their websites, 157 percent increase in page views, 101 percent increase in new users.

“All these numbers collectively show the pent-up demand for travel is high and we truly believe with all of our attractions beginning to reopen this week, we will see our drive-market visitors return to enjoy all this destination has to offer,” Percy said. “Niagara Falls, in the past, has bounced back quicker. Next year may be our best year ever.”

Though he acknowledged this year will be a setback and is hoping locals can still visit the region to take advantage of the spaces that are normally packed with international and out-of-state tourists.

Niagara Falls will lose out on millions of dollars in tourism. Percy could not give a definitive estimate but said it’s a significant amount.

“We know (this time) is typically the Black Friday of tourism,” Percy said. “This year is going to be oddly and uniquely different. What we’re looking forward to is just looking forward and getting over it and moving forward.”

Hotel rates in Niagara Falls are lower than normal. Percy previously told WBEN that it could take several years for rates to increase again because of the demand.

Tourism companies will also feel the sting of fewer tourists. Rainbow Air Marketing Manager Pat Proctor said the lack of buses from New York City and New Jersey will mean fewer people who take a helicopter ride over Niagara Falls.

“It’s going to be tough to fill the gaps but I got a feeling that people are going to have enough and say ‘let’s get in the car and go’,” Proctor said.

Proctor said they will operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. Rainbow Air will require people wear a mask in order to fly, though a mask will be provided if needed.

In Buffalo, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on finances. Between anticipated bed tax collections and canceled or postponed events, Buffalo is expected to lose approximately $68 million. That figure is expected to increase as the pandemic continues.

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