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By Patrick J. Bradley
Senior Contributing Writer
Destination Niagara USA is planning a party – a birthday bash to celebrate 20 years of tourism sales promotion in Niagara.
The agency has much to celebrate.
A recent Destination Niagara USA update meeting hosted by the New York Power Authority gave the agency an opportunity to share 2022 tourism results and preview this year's highlights with area stakeholders. The summary: Last year's numbers topped those from 2019, the year before the coronavirus struck. And 2023 is expected to be even better.
"This engine is moving forward," Destination Niagara USA President and CEO John Percy said.
Among last year's highlights were results generated by the Niagara Falls Convention Center, which is now managed by Destination Niagara USA.
"It was an amazing year for us," Sales Director Melissa Gearhart said. "Our team did an amazing job. We're excited about the future."
A recent survey by Longwoods International, a leading tourism researcher, cited several encouraging factors. Nearly 20% of those surveyed said they will travel within the U.S. rather than internationally this year, while 15% are expected to choose destinations to which they can drive rather than fly. Respondents said inflation and the cost of gas, both of which are beginning to ease, also will influence their travel plans.
Percy said such information is helping to shape his agency's marketing efforts.
This year's key words?
"Drivable, accessible and affordable," Percy said.
The data also convinced Destination Niagara to build on a successful winter campaign that encouraged New York state residents and others within driving distance to enjoy fun-filled winter activities and holiday shopping here, said Marketing Director Libby Tonellato.
A spring campaign that is now under way includes a heavy online effort that targets Buffalo, Chicago, Rochester, New York City and Cleveland, she added.
A number of events that will appeal to local residents are planned for this summer. The recently rebranded Old Falls Street USA, a three-block cobblestone street that connects Niagara Falls State Park with the Niagara Falls Convention Center, will be the venue for outdoor Thursday night movies and Friday concerts.
A number of special events are planned as well, including a canine event dubbed "Poochella," the Rainbow City Pride event, a blues festival and the ever-popular Oktoberfest.
Destination Niagara USA team members were part of the Niagara Beautification Commission's cleanup day. (Photo courtesy of Destination Niagara USA)