A co-ordinated marketing campaign and hosting a live American talk show helped make for another great tourism season in Niagara Falls.
“I just talked to one of the major players the other day, and he said he was up 10 per cent last year, and he’s up 10 per cent this year, so that gives you a very good idea,” said Niagara Falls Tourism chairman Wayne Thomson.
He said the heart of the tourism sector — Fallsview, Victoria Centre and Clifton Hill — was regularly jammed with people during the traditional busy season from May 24 to Labour Day.
“People right from Clifton Hill, right down to Table Rock — people walking up Murray Hill — it was just constantly loaded,” said Thomson.
“I think it’s above last year, and I think …10 per cent is probably a good figure to look at. I think we did a great job co-ordinating our marketing with the provincial and federal government — Destination Canada, (Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation).”
Thomson said the Live with Kelly and Ryan show at Oakes Garden Theatre in June was “the best thing we’ve ever done.”
Hosts Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest showered praise on the Honeymoon Capital, and showed clips of them, along with family members and crew, enjoying many of the city’s and region’s attractions and establishments.
“You couldn’t have had a better two-hour commercial,” said Thomson.
“That investment was, without exception, the best thing we’ve ever done. That was incredible.”
He said more than ever, Niagara Falls is attracting visitors from new places, noting it’s more common now to find licence plates from Texas, California and Nevada.
“The American exchange on the dollar was bringing them here. The Canadians weren’t travelling because of the exchange into the States, and I don’t think North America was heading over to Europe with all the (safety) concerns. It was all working to our benefit, and I think was why we had one of the best years in history.”
Thomson said Niagara Falls is no longer a seasonal tourism hub.
He said the casinos, convention centre and WEGO transportation system have transformed the city into a year-round destination.
“During the week it gets a little bit slower, but on the weekend we’re blowing them away. We have year-round business now.”
Thomson said the convention centre, of which he is the chairman, is on a “steady incline” when it comes to hosting events.
He said in addition to traditional conferences and the annual popular Comic Con convention, the centre is hosting live boxing events and bringing new visitors to the venue.
“We’ve been doing phenomenal in the last few years, and this is the first time where we’ve had a surplus — it’s close to $1 million,” he said.
Thomson said that money is being put towards a meeting room that can hold up to 400 people.
“We’ve already got it rented out all year next year.”