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Buffalo Casino Not Part of Tourism Marketing Plans

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Local officials made their pitch to about 600 travel planners Wednesday that Western New York should be on their list of desirable tourist destinations. But uncertainty over the Buffalo Creek Casino leaves a blank on the itinerary for marketing the region.

Tour group buyers poured into the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau for the start of the annual travel expo. To help sell the region's strong points, officials also gave tour buyers a tour of the region.

But Erie County Executive Chris Collins says there's one spot that wasn't on the promotional tour.

"The casino we have now is not something you can market. I mean, it's a shed," said Collins.

And it will stay "a shed" indefinitely in light of the Senecas' decision to halt construction of the permanent casino. City, county and tourism officials were banking on the $333 million gambling mecca to lure new tourists to the region.

Virgil J. Lengel is sales manager for Lakefront Lines. The Cleveland-based company charters tours in seven states for hundreds of groups. Lengel said casinos are a big draw for his clients.

But officials said there are plenty of other tourist draws in the region. Richard Geiger is president and chief executive officer for the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau. He said they taken buyers around to see 55 sites in the region. He said reaction is positive.

He say the 2006 travel expo succeeded in drawing about 100 tour operators back to the region, generating roughly a million dollars in tourism business. Geiger said maintaining their marketing efforts is crucial. The county executive pledged he would protect funding for the C-V-B and the culturals at the previous total level of 15 million dollar. Geiger said it is a start.

But he said strategic planning and rebranding will come first. And whether or not that evolves into a national campaign he said will depend on resources.

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