By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette — When local residents chat about the failures of our city, the thing that we must most remember is that there are 50,000 ‘falls’ at Niagara — and that’s not counting the Horseshoe, Bridal Veil and American falls. It is the number of people who daily have an opportunity to improve our city, but instead, ‘fall’ before we actually do the relatively easy work of “gettinit done.”
People, let me tell you something. The place or the thing may be what gets people to come and go, and seven-to-12 million already come to Niagara Falls for a short period of time, and often only once. But it is the people that get people to want to come back, over and over again.
Would people keep going back to Disney World if every time they went, their car got broken into, their maids rifle through their things, the staff and people are rude to them?
We keep talking about what everybody else should do to make our city great, but with us already having the place and the thing, if every Niagaran would just treat the guests and visitors that come here, not just with respect, but with welcoming exuberance, then they will come back again and again and again.
We must stop thinking that we residents are special because we indeed live in a special place. Instead, we must begin to think that the people who come to Niagara Falls to visit us are special, because they are the ones that make and will make it possible for us to do what we already do and to do much more.
Listen. I have been as far west as the coast of North Vietnam and the Philippines, to Mexico, Canada, and Bermuda, and throughout the Caribbean, North and Mediterranean seas. I have been to places like Puerto Rico, Haiti, Cuba, England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Monte Carlo, Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco and Portugal. I have even spent time in the African nation of Senegal; and let me tell you something — most of the places to which I have been were absolutely beautiful, some were even exciting.
But the places to which I would like to return are not all that special. They are places like Peterborough, Ont.; Hamilton, Bermuda; Charlotte Amalie, US Virgin Islands and especially Valencia, Spain and Dakar, Senegal.
The reason being is because the people there treated me so nicely. In Senegal, they are still asking my friends there, “When will the fat, funny one come back?”
When we visit a place, we ought not to go there just to “see” the place, instead, we should go to “be” the people. While in Rome, do as the Romans do. And while the visitor is here, we should give them the opportunity to do as we much nicer Niagaran should do.
Here is what I mean.
I have had visitors from Reunion Island, far into the Indian Ocean, stay at my home; this, after they have travelled to Miami, Orlando, Washington DC and NYC. When I asked my new friends to tell me of which city that they visited in the US they liked best, they said Niagara Falls.
I then asked them why, and they said that because of all of the places to which they had been, I was the only person to personally and wholeheartedly welcome them.
Easy, huh? And I still remember a fellow in Rotterdam, Netherlands who had a few of us in his home for wine and cheese; I remember the dinners that I had in the homes of my friends in Senegal and my many experiences in the Philippines.
Too often we treat our guests like they are in our way — especially our Canadians friends, who pour millions upon millions of dollars into the city and area every year. We complain about them at Tops and at the parking lots on Military Road. We complain about the way that they drive (and they are terrible drivers — but no worse than most of us, when a Canadian cuts us off, we notice the license plate and say, “Darned Canadians,” but we pay no attention to the license plates that say New York, or shout, “Darn New Yorkers” when they cut us off.
If we want to improve Niagara Falls, then we have to improve ourselves. If we want to improve the tourism experience, then we must smile, say hello to our visitors, be courteous to them, make them feel welcome and let them know that it is they, not us, who are special.
It pays great dividends that far exceed the money when they tell their friends back home that there are 50,000 rises in Niagara Falls!
Contact Ken Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.Contact Ken Hamilton at email@example.com.