Tonawanda News

May 7, 2014

GUEST VIEW: Tourism helps grow local economy

By John Percy
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — As the temperatures rise and days continue to get longer, attractions, accommodations, tour operators, restaurants and more throughout Niagara County are finalizing details and prepping for this year’s peak tourism season which unofficially kicks off during National Tourism Week, May 3 to 11. On behalf of all of us at the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation, thank you to the nearly 14,000 people who work in the tourism industry throughout Niagara County. From tour operators to ticket takers and front desk clerks, each of you has a critical part in working to make Niagara USA a world class destination for visitors from across the state to across the world.

Attracting tourists, conventioneers and meeting guests, NTCC continues to reach and draw visitors to Niagara USA and has been a major driver in tourism growth for Niagara County. Local businesses, lodging, attractions, recreation, entertainment, restaurants, retail, transportation and even real estate all benefit from the more than $520 million in tourism dollars spent here in Niagara County. Each year these tourism dollars are helping to create jobs, sustain local business and generate tax revenues for local residents. Tourism is the second largest employer in the county, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the total workforce. Tourism sales have generated approximately $65 million in both state and local taxes last year. This equates to nearly $800 in savings per Niagara County household.

When visitors stay, there are plenty of lodging options available from Lewiston to Lockport. While hotel inventory has remained relatively stable in recent years, bed tax revenue from increased overnight stays has risen more than 55 percent since 2008, a 70 percent increase from 2003. NTCC’s online reservation system has logged nearly 7,000 room nights in the last two years, which generated an economic impact of approximately $1.36 million for Niagara County.

In addition, many of our region’s attractions are in the midst of upgrades to further enhance our visitors’ experience throughout Niagara USA. Thanks to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, millions of dollars are being invested into Niagara Falls State Park for extensive rehabilitation, including restoring Frederick Law Olmsted’s principles of design for the park. In Lockport, Locks 69 and 70, the first two of the “Flight of Five” Locks, which have not operated since the early 20th Century, are in the process of being restored. In North Tonawanda, the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum recently completed a new Kiddieland Testing Park which interprets a major part of the company’s later history. And the Niagara Wine Trail USA continues to grow with 20 wineries to date, in addition to a new brewery and a new cidery.

From employees to taxpayers to attractions, tourism benefits all of us in Niagara County. In addition to showcasing all Niagara USA has to offer to visitors from outside of our region, I encourage Niagara County residents to make this the year they get up close and rediscover the world class attractions right in their own backyard. Tourism is working in Niagara USA.

John Percy is president and CEO of Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp.