Local tourism industry looking to rebound this summer

Posted at 11:10 PM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-29 08:28:46-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Community leaders are looking forward to a rebound in the tourism industry after COVID-19 took such a big bite out of it last year.

Visit Buffalo Niagara said hotel business dropped by about 47% from 2019 to 2020, and that hotels lost about 60% of revenue from one year to the next. Visit Buffalo Niagara President/CEO Patrick Kaler said there might be signs of hope, hotel occupancy rose 17% last month, compared to April of 2020.

Kaler said summer is peak season, and that Visit Buffalo Niagara is targeting tourists from Central New York and New York City.

“We’re just hopeful for a good summer, especially because it’s going to be more of a drive market this summer for travelers, and we feel like we are a perfect destination for New Yorkers as well as folks from Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Kaler said.

Canadians can't make the drive, as the border remains closed. Kaler said Canadians typically make up 35-45% of visitors. He expects outdoor destinations like the Outer Harbor and Canalside to be hot spots.

Buffalo Double Decker Bus Tours did not operate last summer. This season is starting up in June, it usually begins in May. Chief Fun Officer Joel Dombrowski said he's aiming for about 75% of normal business.

“We have decided to orient ourselves to be focused on locals, first and foremost, because we don’t know if folks are gonna come in from out of town, we don’t know if the border’s gonna be open," Dombrowski said. "So we’ve revamped our existing tours to make them new and interesting for locals, but then we’ve added tours that we think locals will like as well.”

Those tours now stop at local businesses, like the Naval Park and breweries.

“This past year proved we have to rely on each other, and so if I do well, then other people do well, and so forth, so it's an upward spiral,” Dombrowski said.

Dombrowski said new tours include a murder mystery disco party that stops at multiple places, and a ladies only tour with food, beverages, a psychic and a tiki boat.

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino said the city is looking to lure visitors to this part of the state.

"Folks in the state might have an awful lot of focus on New York City, and what we're doing is we're driving a campaign that talks to them about the other side - the fact that we represent perhaps that incredible distinction between what New York City has to offer and what we have to offer," Restaino said.

Visit Buffalo Niagara's developing a tourism ten year master plan, and is looking for local input. Those who fill out the survey will be entered to win a staycation package.