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Niagara County legislators will hear a request for a 15 percent increase in tourism funding for 1998 when they meet this evening aboard on an Erie Canal excursion boat of the Lockport Locks and Canal Tours.

Michael A. Casale, county tourism director, will outline the request at the annual legislators' reception of the County Tourism Advisory Board on the excursion boat.

The increase, to about $900,000, would provide additional advertising funds to promote tourism, and would amount to an investment that would generate economic benefits to the county. Casale described the request during a meeting of the advisory board Monday in the Niagara Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau.

On another issue, Jo Fisher, bureau president, said the bureau's spring advertising campaign in Cleveland and Pittsburgh was well received.

There was a major increase from the campaign the previous year focusing on the Pittsburgh area only. The blitz this year ran 4 1/2 weeks, a week longer than the 1996 campaign.

Niagara Falls will be the site of the 1998 statewide convention of county legislators, with m450 expected, Mrs. Fisher said.

Casale said use of the county tourism office's toll-free telephone line has increased 18 percent this year.

The consensus of board members is that the 1997 tourism season is at least as strong as the previous year's, perhaps a little better. Concrete figures were lacking, however. State park attendance was reported up, but retailing was said to be weaker.

The board asked Casale to have his office prepare definite figures periodically during the year by sampling hotels, attractions and retail outlets for traffic and revenue figures.

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