By Justin Sondel firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — NIAGARA FALLS — Niagara County’s lead tourism agency laid out plans for the next few years in front of members of the industry and politicians at a luncheon Friday morning.
Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. President John Percy highlighted aspects of three documents created to set forth an agenda for the group in the coming years during the event at the Four Points Sheraton.
Percy said the agency has been able to grow occupancy rates through some tough times, but needs to continue to strive to attract more visitors and get them to stay longer.
”Even during the economic downturn our occupancy has increased year after year for the last five years,” Percy said.
Bed tax revenue has increased by 70 percent since the agency was formed in 2003, according to the 2013 Annual Report, one of the three documents provided by NTCC at the luncheon.
The agency also distributed its 2014-2015 Marketing Plan and 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. The marketing plan identifies 22 distinct “segments” of potential visitors and outlines plans for attracting them while the strategic plan concentrates on internal and external policy and goals, identifying the offices responsible for each.
All three reports are all available at the agency’s website.
Percy also highlighted the implementation of a new website, which he said has been highly successful, keeping browsers’ page view times for an average of eight minutes, far above the average page view time of approximately three minutes.
”We’ve seen immediate results from this website,” he said.
Percy also alluded to the agency’s political issues.
The NTCC had one-year extensions granted by both the Niagara County Legislature and the Niagara Falls City Council last year, both of which will be up this summer.
Representatives from the Niagara County Legislature and NTCC announced a pending three-year deal on Friday. It will be effective June 1 and run through June 1, 2017. It will not be finalized until it is formally approved by county lawmakers and the NTCC’s Board of Directors. The current agreement was set to expire June 18.
Republicans in the legislature and several current and former members of the city council had expressed concerns about the agency’s spending practices and transparency.
Percy said the reports released Friday, coupled with behind the scenes efforts to engage politicians and community members, are aimed at better advertising the work of the agency.
”We have to do, myself and even my team, have to do a better job talking to the community, talking to our stakeholders and talking to our elected leaders so that they too understand what we’re doing, they too have a voice in these documents and they too have a voice in the direction of this organization and destination,” he said.
Percy said that measuring the success of a tourism agency can sometimes seem “intangible,” and so he and his team need to consistently let the public know what they are up to.
”It’s hard for people to understand the tourism industry,” he said.
Frank Strangio, the NTCC board chair and hotelier, stressed how important tourism is to the county and the region.
”It is an industry that brings dollars to our community through jobs, through tax revenues and in order to allow it to prosper you have to market,” Strangio said.
The tourism industry is the second largest industry in Niagara County, according to the materials distributed at the event.
Strangio praised Percy and his staff, saying they have done an excellent job to readies bed tax revenues.
”I can’t stress enough that marketing moves the needle,” he said.Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257