Niagara Gazette

Local News

August 3, 2009

NIAGARA FALLS: Tourism talk turns heated

Percy addresses accountability, funding issues

A planned 30-minute update from the head of the Niagara Tourism Convention Corp. warped into a nearly two-hour assault on the agency’s operation and promotion efforts Monday evening.

NTCC President John Percy deflected criticism and fielded a variety of questions from frustrated members of the city’s Tourism Advisory Board and several others attending the meeting. At the end, he reiterated his willingness to work together to enhance tourism efforts but stressed the importance of keeping the agency’s funding levels stable.

“I am all for fixing roads and cleaning up the city but it can’t be at the expense of marketing,” Percy said.

The 6-year-old agency has hired Joseph A. Lathrop, president of Organizational Development & Strategic Planning, to help create a new strategic marketing plan. Lathrop joined Percy at Monday’s meeting to collect feedback on specific questions he posed to the advisory board in an earlier memo.

“My intention here tonight is to listen,” Lathrop told the board. “Everybody’s input is valuable.”

But instead of answers, Lathrop, Percy and NTCC Board of Trustees President Tricia Mezhir were met with more questions and a challenge to become more accountable to a city that’s providing the bulk of the agency’s annul operating budget.

“Niagara Falls puts all the chips in and everyone else is holding their hands back,” Tourism Board Chairman Jerry Genova said. “We’re taking every penny we have and investing it in your strategy. That’s why your agency is facing this type of scrutiny from us.”

Percy started Monday’s presentation by saying occupancy rates at city hotels this summer are down 3.7 percent compared to last year but that’s better than the national average, which is down 9.6 percent. The average daily hotel room rate is down 2.4 percent but the national average is also down 9.6 percent, he added.

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