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New report identifies issues, recommends how to boost Niagara Falls tourism - all year round

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino speaks during the Niagara Global Tourism Institute's presentation of its new tourism report Monday, Oct. 4, 2021.
Michael Mroziak, WBFO
Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino speaks during the Niagara Global Tourism Institute's presentation of its new tourism report Monday, Oct. 4, 2021.

The Niagara Global Tourism Institute has released its study of tourism in Niagara Falls, and the challenges to grow it coming out of the COVID pandemic. The study’s creators and backers are also addressing the latest vision, and how it differs from past plans.

The Niagara Falls, USA tourism industry is still facing the obstacle of a restricted border with Canada, but three themes stand out in the report just released by the Niagara Global Tourism Institute: Not enough visitors are coming in the winter; visitors coming to Niagara Falls aren’t staying long enough; and there are local problems holding back growth, including poverty, crime, workforce gaps and negative attitudes by many locals.

“It's a simple and coordinated approach throughout the state that really will push for extended visitor stays,” said Roscoe Naguit, associate director of the Institute. “It creates a better economic activity for local businesses, and really a more consistent career pathway for a workforce. And let's face it, there are businesses historic and Niagara Falls that deserve a year round destination for sustainability.”

Backers of the Institute’s plan are counting on the creation of year-round attractions in order to, in turn, generate jobs which will help restore a sense of civic pride.

“These types of developments provide jobs. And when you provide jobs, you improve the entire community. Poverty is the critical piece to improving the City of Niagara Falls, if we attack that,” said Niagara Falls mayor Robert Restaino. “I've been saying this since January 2020. The key is, how do we develop projects that put people to work, so that homeownership becomes not just a dream, but a reality and starts to improve neighborhoods via their personal pride in your space?”

The plan, stakeholders also point out, avoids the “silver bullet” one-shot approach that past strategies relied upon to spark economic growth.

While discussing wintertime attractions, it was pointed out the Aquarium of Niagara is one such longtime venue. But its president and chief executive officer, Gary Siddall, says while it’s pleased to serve as an anchor, it’ can’t be the only anchor.

“We hope that in the coming years we'll see other partners join us become part of really establishing our year-round seasonality for the City of Niagara Falls,” Siddall said. “We certainly have seen the benefits from creating year round employment opportunities, full time good paying jobs that draw people in from out of country, out of state. Then they're seated into the community here and participating economically in a variety of different ways.”

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.