Niagara Gazette

March 28, 2007

TOURISM: Where’s the winter ‘Love’?

Three council members question why Niagara Falls got cold shoulder in ‘I Love New York’ Winter guide

By Denise Jewell/jewelld@gnnewspaper.com

Three Niagara Falls councilmen are blasting the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. for failing to advertise in the state’s “Winter I Love New York” guide, but the agency’s president said the organization made a decision to concentrate its advertising budget on summer marketing before it received an influx of casino dollars last year.

Councilman Sam Fruscione, along with Council Chairman Robert Anderson Jr. and Councilman Lewis “Babe” Rotella, sent a letter Wednesday to NTCC President and CEO John Percy expressing displeasure that Niagara Falls was not promoted in the state’s 2006-07 winter guide.

“This is very, very disappointing,” said Gerald Genova, chairman of the city’s volunteer Tourism Advisory Board. “There’s not a single photo of Niagara Falls.”

The 65-page magazine, published by the state’s “I Love New York” campaign last year, promotes ski areas across the state, as well as indoor activities in New York City, Buffalo and other areas. The editorial content of the winter guide includes only a listing for the Aquarium of Niagara, the Gorge Discovery Center and Niagara’s Wax Museum of History.

There are no paid advertisements for Niagara Falls in the magazine, which is distributed across New York and in neighboring states.

Percy, who as president of the NTCC coordinates marketing efforts for attractions throughout Niagara County, said the agency’s decision not to advertise in the state’s winter guide was an effort to concentrate marketing dollars to promote the region’s summer tourist season.

He said the NTCC has taken out a full-page advertisement in the state’s summer guide in the past.

“Our dollars are limited, and so to spend dollars on a winter guide, to me, limits the dollars we have to expend on our core season,” Percy said. “I would rather make a bigger impact in the summer guide versus the winter guide.”

The NTCC is funded primarily through hotel occupancy taxes and slot machine revenue paid by the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel to the state.

Percy added that advertising for the state’s 2006-07 winter guide had to be purchased in early 2006 — before the agency received slots revenue that had been held up for more than a year. The agency’s marketing budget was confined in 2005 and early 2006 after the distribution of local casino revenue was delayed.

Members of the city’s Tourism Advisory Board said Monday they were disappointed to see the limited exposure Niagara Falls received in either the articles included in the winter guide or the magazine’s advertisements.

“The falls doesn’t stop,” said Vince Mameli, an advisory board member. “It goes in the summer and the winter.”

While the Niagara Falls State Park is open during the entire year, Percy said, local attractions are limited during winter months.

“It’s still beautiful around Niagara Falls. It’s just our product is limited in scope. There is no Cave of the Winds. There is no Maid of the Mist. There is no Whirlpool Jet Ski,” Percy said.

Percy said the agency will begin to look at its winter marketing efforts as the region begins to boost its winter products. He envisions creating packages for Canadian tourists during the winter months who want to shop in local malls and stay at local hotels.

The guide focuses primarily on winter outdoor activities and the Adirondacks, but also includes write-ups about indoor attractions, including the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo, which completed its first phase of reconstruction in October, and a new butterfly garden in Rochester.

A.J. Carter, a spokesman for Empire State Development Corp., said the state’s “I Love New York” program rotates what New York State attractions are included in the editorial content of the campaign’s brochures.

“When it comes to winter, the major part of this guide looks at skiing and outdoor activities,” Carter said. “In New York, that’s the Adirondacks.”

Carter pointed to several references to attractions in the Western New York area in the guide, including the Aquarium of Niagara and ski resorts in the southern tier.

Carter said the “I Love New York” program is currently finishing work on the summer guide.

The councilmen’s concerns over the state’s winter guide came after Empire State Development in December omitted the recently completed Conference Center Niagara Falls from a two-page press release headlined “Let New York State Host Your Next Convention.”