060707 David Peck2

JOE EBERLE/CONTRIBUTOR Niagara Falls, NY - David Fleck, president of the Niagara Falls Hotel/Motel Association.

BY jill terreri

terrerij@gnnewspaper.com

David Fleck, who serves as president of Howard Johnson’s Closest to the Falls and the Niagara Falls Hotel-Motel Association talks about concerns of the city’s hospitality industry, regionalism, development of the airport and plans for the Niagara Experience Center.

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Question: What are some of the biggest concerns of your members?

Answer: I think it’s lack of development.

Lack of eateries, because your guests are asking questions like, “Where can I go eat.”

And you’ve got to send them to Pine Avenue. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’m still saying if we had an Olive Garden (downtown), another fast food here, a few of those out here, it’s all we need, just to say at least we have some semblance of a tourist town.

When I send people to Pete’s Market House, The Como, and Michael’s, they love it. They can’t believe the prices. And it’s not that far.

The other thing we need here is shops.

My sisters took this thing (gestures to Three Sisters Trading Post, next to his hotel), it’s still working. They’ve got all kinds of nice Native American stuff, it’s Adirondack stuff, and it’s Niagara Falls stuff.

We need boutiques, we need coffee houses, we need theaters.

I’m talking movie theaters, but we’d love to see the other kind too.

If they would have kept the Strand and the Cataract on Falls Street ... we would have been like Niagara-on-the-Lake, we would have just had to find some kind of Bernard Shaw guy to name it after.

That’s why that town does so well, because they have that theater.

Buffalo does a fantastic job with theaters.

I’d even like to see regionalism with Buffalo, but we’re always, we’re so, we’re not butting heads. I understand regionalism works, but some people say, “Oh, they’re using our name with the airport, and they won’t let our airport run.”

Our airport out here is one of our hidden jewels, the thing that could make us all, year-round, we would probably be up to the national average in occupancy.

The runway is ... it could land those big jumbo jet planes. From where? China. Where do they land now? New York City, Toronto.

We need to tap into that Asian market.

Why is Buffalo afraid?

We’re not going to go after the domestic tiny carriers they’re doing. We’re going after Air Lufthansa. That’s the ones we’ve got to go after. If we get a plane of that every week, that’s what will fill up the casino hotel.

If they do that, you’ll see three major hotels out there (near the airport).

That’s progress. That’s what we need to become.

We’re on the right path.

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Q: What do you make of the information sign controversy?

A: I don’t like it. I think an info sign should go for a regular information center, an official information center, not a sightseeing agency.

They need to change that law. They should not have that. That’s been a controversy for years. It’s not right.

(Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation) booths (off the I-90 in Angola and Clarence) refer rooms right now.

It’s fair and it’s working.

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Q: How do the booths in Angola and Clarence refer rooms without giving preference to one hotel over another?

A: We all fax in our rates each day and they’re supposed to go on a rotating basis.

Nobody’s complained to me yet.

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Q: What do you think of plans for the Niagara Experience Center?

A: I believe that’s a must go.

History is so not told here.

There are so many people who enjoy history, visitors that want to know about the history.

I go out there and talk about it (gestures to the lobby) and I can’t get away from the front desk. I just go on and on about it.

The National Heritage designation — I’m so hoping that goes.

If we get designation as a federal park, that’s just going to solidify everything.

We support (the experience center). I’ve even said, part of the bed tax ... I wouldn’t mind seeing 5 or 10 percent go to the experience center.

You need the big boys to come in, the federal parks. The state hasn’t done a great job until recently.

They put these new paths down here, they put in the Gorge Discovery Center.

It would be such a great tool — the Niagara Experience Center — to get people to Lewiston and Youngstown.

It will increase that regional tourism. We should have been looking at something like that 30 years ago.

I can envision this place with the experience center and a beautiful parkway and the whole of Western New York, using Buffalo, with their architecture and theater district. They’re so close, their casino, our casino, even Ellicottville, Salamanca. All that stuff can gel to make our area premier.

Contact Jill Terreriat 282-2311, Ext. 2250.

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