Niagara Gazette


February 27, 2009

TOURISM: Locals urged to woo state with possibilities

The funding pie may be smaller, but there’s plenty of slices still up for grabs.

That was the main theme of Friday’s Niagara Falls Legislative Reception as state officials promised the over 150 in attendance they would continue lobbying for the local tourism industry, despite what’s expected to be one of the worst economic years in history.

“The state is going to spend money and we want to make sure we get our fair share of dollars,” said state Sen. Antoine Thompson, adding that officials need to continue emphasizing how important Niagara Falls and the surrounding area are to New York’s future.

Legislative receptions were scheduled across the state Friday as a way to bring together individuals from the tourism, hospitality and arts and entertainment industries with elected officials who have the means to deliver their concerns and needs to Albany. John Percy, president of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., proudly announced the Falls gathering at Antonio’s Banquet and Conference Center was the highest attended in the state.

“Not that we’re competitive in this business,” Percy joked.

Before passing the microphone off to state representatives, Percy outlined several ongoing projects such as the planned state-of-the-art visitor center downtown, the new terminal under construction at the Niagara Falls International Airport and the City of Lockport’s efforts to restore the historic Flight of Five locks on the Erie Canal.

Percy added NTCC will spend more money this year on promoting the area to potential tourists, specifically ones living within a 350-mile radius.

“This is the year to be out there more than ever,” he said.

Though funds are tight, all three state officials who spoke — Thompson, Sen. George Maziarz and Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte — agreed growing the tourism industry is a top priority. Specifically, DelMonte focused on the need to restore a projected funding gap of at least $7 million to the state Council on the Arts, which awards over 2,500 grants a year to organizations such as the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center and the Aquarium of Niagara.

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