Welcome sign pulled from Fort Erie travel center

March 30, 2012 Updated Mar 30, 2012 at 8:00 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by James Fink

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March 30, 2012 Updated Mar 30, 2012 at 8:00 AM EDT

For the second time in the past month, a budget-based decision by the financially-strapped Province of Ontario has struck a blow to the hospitality industry in Fort Erie.

But, this one will likely have far less of an impact than the decision to close slot-machine operations at Fort Erie Race Track.

The Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corp. said it is closing the little-used, decade-old Ontario Welcome Centre on Bertie Street, located just across the street from the thoroughbred horse racing track. The center will close on April 30, the same day that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. is shutting down the Fort Erie slots.

The welcome center has one employee, who will be shifted to a similar center in Niagara Falls.

Ronald Holgerson, Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership interim president, said the decision to close the Fort Erie center is part of an overall realignment and shift by travelers to seek information online.

Besides Fort Erie, full-time welcome centers in Fort Frances and Cornwall along with seasonal operations in Kenora, Rainy River, Prescott and Hill Island will also close. The agency still has 11 welcome centers open including ones in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines.

The Fort Erie center sits in a building that was constructed and owned by the same Israeli investment group that owns the race track. The Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership leased less than 1,000-square-feet in the building.

Plans called for a series of stores and restaurants to open in the building, but none did. The provincial tourism agency was the building's sole tenant and the center was only staffed by one person.

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