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BED TAX REVENUES INCREASED 20% LAST YEAR

The Niagara tourism marketing agency still doesn't know precisely how much money it will get for its main advertising campaign, or when it'll arrive, but the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. did get one bit of encouraging information recently.

The amount of money collected in bed tax from Niagara Falls motels and hotels increased nearly 20 percent in 2004.

The tax brought in nearly $1.2 million, about $200,000 more than 2003 collections, NTCC President David Rosenwasser said Wednesday.

Since it's a 4 percent surcharge, he calculated that the city's hotels and motels saw $5 million more in business in 2004.

"Seeing overnight stays grow by that sort of margin can only be good news for the industry and local economy," Rosenwasser said.

He stressed that he's not claiming the increase was entirely because of the NTCC's 2004 marketing campaign. The 2003 numbers were hurt by SARS and the Iraq war, and the 2004 number was helped by the continued growth in visitors attracted by the Seneca Niagara Casino, he said.

Whatever the source, the bed tax increase is "good news, and the combination of a lot of hard work from a lot of people," said Mayor Vince Anello.

"Certainly that's why I continue to stress that all of us need to be more upbeat about our city," Anello said. "People don't want to visit communities that are down on themselves."

So far this year, the NTCC, which hoped to build on its successful 2004 marketing campaign, has been limited to smaller efforts. The $11 million in Seneca Niagara Casino local share dollars promised to the host community under the casino compact still hasn't been delivered. There are no sure signs from Albany that will change soon, Rosenwasser said.

Last year, the Niagara market saw the results of its first $1 million campaign. A combination of print, radio and billboard advertisements were launched in cities within a few hours' drive, such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Hamilton, Ont. A survey by Niagara University estimated that the campaign directly produced $58 million in Niagara County tourist spending.

Anello said he too is in the dark on when the casino money will arrive.

"I keep getting encouraging signals from Albany," he said, "but I have no specific date."

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com

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