Niagara Falls may be one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, but many visitors, even those from this country, just want to take a fast look at the water, buy some icewine, and head down the QEW to Toronto.
And that’s a serious problem, says Niagara Parks Commission Chairwoman Fay Booker.
“We have to do a much better job of educating people in our prospective markets,” she said during a Parks Commission meeting Wednesday morning. “We have to tell people there is so much more to do here. We have to keep them here longer.”
That will be crucial to the long-term success of the Parks Commission and the Niagara tourism industry in general. Commissioners heard a report during the meeting about travel trends, and the message was not good.
Visitors to Ontario from the United States, already in freefall over the past 10 years, are predicted to be flat for 2011 as the world still reels from the global recession. In addition, Americans travelling to Ontario will be impacted by the strength of the Canadian dollar and lower taxes in the United States – factors that also entice Canadians to forsake their own country for trips south of the border.
As a result, the Niagara Parks Commission will look more and more to emerging markets such as China and India and South America for future business. But there is a knowledge gap in those countries about what Niagara offers.
“These people come to see the falls, they want to go behind the falls, do the boat ride, get some icewine, and they want to do it all in a morning,” Booker said. “Then they are off to Toronto. Our challenge is to convince them there are more things to do in Niagara and to get them to stay longer.”
Wednesday’s meeting was the first since the Ontario government purged the board last month. Booker and vice-chairwoman Janice Thomson swore in six new commissioners, all of them senior civil servants from Queen’s Park.
There were no representatives from municipal councils present, as those must be approved by Orders in Council from the provincial cabinet. Niagara Falls and Fort Erie have indicated they are sending Coun. Vince Kerrio and Mayor Doug Martin back to the Parks Commission, even through the province suggested all municipalities send new delegates. Regional council and the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake have not yet named their representatives to the Parks.
Niagara This Week by Peter Conradi
This article was originally published here