Tonawanda News — The Republican-led legislative supermajority pushed through a one-year extension of Niagara County’s funding contract with Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation on Tuesday.
Simultaneously, despite the urging of seven area tourism/hospitality business operators who testified to excellent service by NTCC and its C.E.O., John Percy, Republican caucus members rejected a proposed 10-year contract with the county’s official tourism promotion agency.
The votes fell 11-to-3 and 3-to-11 respectively, with Democratic legislators casting the votes favoring a long-term commitment to NTCC now.
“We’re jeopardizing economic development in this county by doing this one-year contract,” Minority Caucus Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, argued.
Businesspeople who’ve had good experiences with the agency also encouraged a long-term commitment to it. The contract is the means by which the county is authorized to turn over a majority share of local bed tax collections to the agency for spending on countywide promotion/marketing efforts.
NTCC gets credit for Lockport Locks & Erie Canal Cruises’ recent rave review on Tripadvisor.com, and its continuously increasing annual ticket sales to out-of-state and foreign visitors, operator Mike Murphy asserted. The agency’s frequently embattled C.E.O., John Percy, whose prior experience is in Niagara Falls hotel management, is “among the best in the business,” Murphy added.
John Kinney, owner-operator of the Whirlpool Jet Tours in Lewiston, Niagara on the Lake and Niagara Falls, Ontario, says the Lewiston site is generating 50 percent of the company’s revenue today, up from only 3 percent when the site first opened in the late 1990s.
“That didn’t happen by chance, it happened because people like John ... sold Niagara County when there wasn’t much to sell. We have come so far, so fast,” he said.
Melinda Vizcarra, owner-operator of Becker Farms and Vizcarra Vineyards winery in Gasport, said when she launched her retail farm operation 25 years ago, “in the woods,” promoting it was costly and challenging. NTCC’s inclusion of “agritourist” attractions, and the Niagara Wine Trail, in its promotions helped put Becker Farms and many other small businesses on the tourist map, so to speak, she said.