Guest Editorial by the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.
The Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation announced Wednesday that, as the summer season comes to a close, visitation to Niagara USA has once again hit an all-time high. Everyone from hoteliers to attraction operators across Niagara County is reporting increases from 2015 - including the Niagara USA Official Visitor Center, which is up 16 percent (year to date) over 2015, having assisted over 103,000 people.
From improvements at the Niagara Falls State Park to the significant investments of new hotels, updated attractions, restaurants and shops, visitors to Niagara USA now have more to do, see and experience.
As an example, The New York Power Authority's Power Vista attraction re-opened June 9 with more than 50 new interactive games and exhibits after an extensive five-month renovation. Every activity has been replaced or improved, and new highlights including a rollercoaster simulator that allows visitors to experience the transformation of a drop of rain into a unit of energy, and a transmission table where they can direct power to where it's needed most. From June to August, total visitation was 26,809, as compared to 17,184 in 2015. In July, the summer month that usually sees the most visitors, the number jumped from 6,827 in 2015 to 10,665 this year - a 56 percent hike.
"We've gained a larger share of the walk-in tourism market - mainly through local partnerships and word of mouth," NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said. "Many visitors to the Niagara Falls State Park are directed our way for a new and exciting experience. They enjoy all these new exhibits, and then go home to talk about them or share them on social media with their friends and family."
Discover Niagara Shuttle
Old Fort Niagara
The increased visitation at NYPA is partially attributed to inclusion in the state parks' Discovery Pass, as well as the new Discover Niagara Shuttle, which has increased access to some of Niagara USA's major attractions.
Old Fort Niagara, which is also a shuttle stop, had a very strong summer as well, up 22 percent (YTD) over 2015.
"We have had a very robust season, and saw increases in both international and domestic visitation," Executive Director Bob Emerson said. "We believe that two of the largest factors contributing to our growth are the excellent visibility we have in NTCC marketing publications as well as the newly launched Discover Niagara Shuttle."
The NTCC has been strongly focusing marketing efforts on educating visitors on all there is to do and see across Niagara County, from Niagara Falls to Lockport and everything in between. President and CEO John Percy said that is due to the prospering local tourism industry and the economic growth of Niagara County.
"This year we updated all of our marketing creative, including our print materials such as the travel guide and the 'Niagara Now' in-room publication, to give a fresh new look and feel with a more experiential focus," he said. "We also launched a digital campaign this spring that has seen enormous success with over 4.5 million online impressions."
Combine that with the Discover Niagara Shuttle offering visitors increased access to attractions, and tourists are encouraged to stay longer and explore further.
Those longer stays are also excellent news for local hoteliers.
"We are thrilled with the growth we saw this summer," said Brett Stewart, vice president of revenue management for Merani Hotel Group. "With the increased supply of rooms entering the market over the past year, we were cautious on how the peak season would materialize. But thanks to the great efforts from our partners at NTCC, we had a record season. Everything NTCC does, from trade shows, publications and newsletters, to running the Official Visitor Center, we have seen strong efforts and all-around great partners to help make Niagara Falls USA a great place to be! The success of this season makes us very optimistic for 2017."
Another local attraction elated with the success of the summer season is Rainbow Air Inc., which is up 25 percent over 2015.
"We thought the 2015 season would be hard to beat, but we surpassed that number by August," Vice President Pat Proctor said. "Adding a second aircraft this season was also key, since it allowed us to handle more charters while not taking away the ability to continue to service the heavy tourist traffic."
Old Falls Street
With such a large increase in the number of visitors to Niagara USA, there is an increased need to provide visitors with additional entertainment options. Old Falls Street, USA, has worked extremely hard this summer to provide a fun and relaxed atmosphere for tourists who want to unwind after long days of activity and adventure.
"Old Falls Street experienced a tremendous amount of local and visiting guests throughout the summer, many of whom enjoyed collaborative community events," said Spectra's Jason Murgia, general manager of Old Falls Street, USA. "New initiatives that drew large crowds included our 4th of July activities, Slow Roll Buffalo cycling events, the 'LiveNF Games' series in August, as well as the addition of a 'Lego Wall' to our daily free interactive games. Returning favorites showing significant guest increases include the 'Dance of the Fireflies,' Taste of Niagara Falls Food Festival, the recent Niagara Falls Blues Festival and our weekly movies, concerts and Saturday afternoon family activities."
"We are thrilled with all of the success that our partners have had this summer season," Percy said. "We are also thrilled to see that, even well into September, visitation continues to be strong. We are no longer a Memorial Day to Labor Day destination. We are seeing visitors travelling here earlier in the spring and coming well into the fall, which is exactly where we continue to focus many of our marketing efforts."
The NTCC's mission is to expand the economic prosperity of the Niagara USA communities by generating individual and group visitation. For more information, visit niagara-usa.com.