By Patrick Kaler
So much of the progress Buffalo has made in the last decade has been tied to the growth in our tourism industry. The redevelopment of our waterfront, reinvigoration of our neighborhoods, restoration of our architecture and influx of new hotels, attractions, restaurants and breweries have helped drive visitation here and rewrite the narrative about our city and region.
Travel and tourism have become an integral part of the Buffalo economy, providing more than 32,000 jobs within Erie County and generating more than $1.8 billion annually in visitor spending.
The unprecedented public health crisis we’re facing right now has ground travel to a halt and put the businesses and workers who rely on visitor spending in peril, endangering livelihoods and potentially undermining much of our collective progress. Meetings and conventions have been canceled or postponed, attractions have shuttered, hotels are reeling from cancellations, the Canadian border has been closed to nonessential travel and restaurants must operate on a takeout or delivery basis, with many opting to go dark instead.
The travel industry businesses that help define the Buffalo experience to our visitors and set our city apart – from boutique hotels to neighborhood coffee shops and pubs, independently owned restaurants and boutiques – simply cannot weather this storm on their own.
Visit Buffalo Niagara sells and markets our assets and attractions to visitors outside of the region as a convention, tourism and leisure destination. We’ve joined our broader industry to call on Washington to establish a fund to keep workers employed, provide emergency liquidity for travel businesses to remain open, and bulk up the Small Business Administration loan program. Congress must act today to ensure our travel industry and its 32,000 employees can sustain themselves through this painful economic period.
When this public health crisis eases, the Visit Buffalo Niagara team will be eager to return to the front lines of driving visitation back to Erie County. We will resume out-of-town marketing campaigns, pitch travel writers to generate media coverage in outlets around the world, and work to bring meetings, conventions and amateur athletic events here that will once again put heads in beds, fill our restaurants and generate millions of dollars of revenue for our economy. But in order to do that to the best of our ability, the very amenities we depend on to promote Buffalo need help and federal intervention now.
Let’s rally behind the businesses in the City of Good Neighbors who have always been there for us, and continue to build on the strides we’ve made as a community and destination for years to come.
Patrick Kaler is president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara.