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Strong marketing effort is paying off with a big increase in Niagara Falls tourism

Folks around here have long known that Niagara Falls, N.Y., is one of the most spectacular vacation destinations on the planet. Now there is evidence that the efforts of tourism officials, bolstered by testimonials through social media, are effectively getting the word out.

Nothing sells better than selfies of happy couples and families with the raging falls in the background. This summer tourism hit an all-time high, by one measure. The Niagara USA Official Visitors Center assisted more than 103,000 people, a 16 percent increase over 2015.

And as a recent News story illustrated, visitors came from both near and far. Some came for the first time; others have been to Niagara Falls time and again.

It is not uncommon to find large groups of foreign passengers traveling into Buffalo Niagara International Airport headed for the Falls. “The view here is like we’ve never seen,” Soblina Mazumdern, of Florida but originally from Bangladesh, told News reporter Nancy A. Fischer. “This is a natural view you cannot get anywhere.”

There was a time when tourism guides shied away from recommending the American side, leaving our state out of the picture. Instead, would-be visitors were told to head over to Canada, which offered a neon experience on Clifton Hill.

The Canadian side no longer gets all the attention. Niagara County has become the place to go for the view and attractions away from the cataracts.

For example, the New York Power Authority’s Power Vista reopened on June 9 following a five-month renovation. It now has more than 50 new interactive games and exhibits, and officials report that the number of July visitors skyrocketed from 6,827 in 2015 to 10,655, a 56 percent increase.

Some of the increase is being attributed to the attraction being included in the state park’s Discovery Pass, that handy all-inclusive package. It is also a stop on the new Discovery Shuttle, another key ingredient to making the experience convenient. The shuttle has increased access to some of Niagara USA’s major stops, including Old Fort Niagara in nearby Youngstown. Not coincidentally, the fort also has had a significant increase in visitors – up 22 percent – both international and domestic.

Brett Stewart, a vice president for the Merani Hotel Group, said regional attractions are prompting visitors to stay a second or third day, something unlikely not long ago.

Rainbow Air helicopter tours saw a 25 percent increase in business. Large crowds were also drawn to activities on Old Falls Street.

John Percy, president and CEO of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Center, said that tourism officials are marketing attractions throughout all of Niagara County, including the Falls, Lockport and points in between. It’s a smart strategy that’s been working to the advantage of hoteliers and businesses.

Summer 2016 is going down in the books as a success, and sets the bar for summers to come.

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