Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Stay-Cations" and Niagara Falls

For a variety of reasons, it appears that fewer people are crossing the US-Canadian border to vacation at Niagara Falls. The biggest losses are experienced by Canadian attractions that rely on vacationers from the States. Americans used to provide 70% of the visitors to The Ripley's Believe it or not museum in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Now U.S. citizens account for about 33% of the business.

"Back in 1999 and 2000, we had a wonderful rubber-tire market, wonderful U.S. visitation," said Tim Parker, general manager of Niagara Falls attractions for Jim Pattison Group, which owns Ripley's.
In fact, the Canadian government recently released figures that say since 2001, day trips by Americans across the border have declined nearly 70%. Ontario's Tourism Minister Monique Smith has recognized the trend and embraced the so-called 'stay-cation'. At a recent luncheon Ms. Smith said the provincial government is seeking new solutions to the new problems facing tourism.
Today, the tourism industry is facing challenges beyond its control," said Smith. "This means we as a government are being challenged to bring forth solutions."
Smith told the audience that the government is spending $11 million to help promote 224 festivals and events taking place in Ontario this year. The Niagara Region will see approximately $1 million of those promotional loonies. On the U.S. side, a similar story. 13% fewer Canadians crossed the border in April when compared to last year. Some are blaming it on the sluggish economy, others say the new passport policy of the U.S. is the cause.

There is some bright news on the horizon. Web travel portal Hotwire.com has just published its top destination for Canadian travelers. Niagara Falls came in at number 7, beating out Chicago and Boston.


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