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Galleria welcomes international visitors Visitors bureau, Macy's build center to boost mall traffic

Macy's department store and the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau have teamed up to open a visitor center at the Walden Galleria.

The satellite CVB center, which opened Friday, aims to capitalize on the high volume of international and domestic visitor traffic attracted to the mall.

Roughly 1.9 million consumers passed through last year.

"It's the perfect place for a visitor bureau satellite," said Ed Healy, Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau director of communications. "It will enhance the visitor experience, enticing them to stay longer and, let's face it, leave more money behind."

A computer terminal at the site gives visitors access to the CVB's Web page and a dedicated phone line links callers directly to the bureau's main tourism office during business hours. Racks of visitor guides, maps and tourist information surround a small seating area.

Situated in Macy's customer service office on the store's lower level, the Macy's-staffed center will answer questions, provide travel advice and directions, and give out 11-percent-off guest savings passes to visitors.

Strategically located near the Interstate 90, as well as Buffalo Niagara International Airport and its surrounding hotels and restaurants, visitor center manager Denise Drews hopes signage will be erected on the Thruway to attract additional visitors.

"It's a great location, especially for people who don't want to venture downtown," said Drews, who noted the CVB's main office is in the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center on Main Street downtown. It will open a satellite location at the Erie Basin Marina in the summer.

But just as the ribbon was cut on the Macy's location, the Canadian dollar posted its steepest one-day decline against the U.S. greenback Friday, dropping by 4.5 U.S. cents to less than 83 U.S. cents.

The Canadian dollar was last worth 83 American cents on Feb. 21, 2003.

Canada's currency has lost more than a quarter of its value since hitting its all-time peak of $1.103 last November after a rapid three-month rise.
A low Canadian dollar cuts the purchasing power of Canadian visitors, making U.S. shopping trips less desirable for them.

"The days of the Canadian dollar being at parity with the U.S. dollar are over for now," said Mikhail Melnik, assistant professor of economics at Niagara University. "Canadian shoppers will continue to cross the border, but at decreasing rates."

Macy's declined to speculate on the effect of a falling Canadian dollar. But, Roseann Gambino, store manager and vice president, doesn't seem worried.

"The customers are loving it," she said.

e-mail: schristmann@buffnews.com

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