Based on the early returns, the 2009 Labor Day weekend was generally strong for the area tourist industry.

Some hoteliers and attraction operators said business was brisk over the three-day period starting Saturday. Others thought the holiday — the first Monday in the month — coming so late may have impacted a lot of families’ travel plans.

“It was a very good weekend,” said Angela Berti, marketing and events specialist with the regional state parks commission.

The Niagara Gorge Discovery Center and the Cave of the Winds on Goat Island, both operated by the parks agency, reported increases in attendance over the same holiday a year ago.

The Niagara Scenic Trolley, a fleet which carries visitors around Prospect Park and Goat Island, had more than 13,617 passengers during the weekend, up more than 1,600 from 2008.

At the Aquarium of Niagara, Executive Director Nancy Chapin said the Whirlpool Street attraction was bustling throughout the long weekend. The three-day visitor count was approaching 7,000.

Chapin said that overall it has been a strong summer. She agrees with others in tourism that many visitors might have opted to stay on the U.S. side of the border this year because of the tighter restrictions.

Steve Fleck, who manages the 80-room Howard Johnson’s Hotel, close to the Rainbow Bridge, said Friday was not as strong as the staff expected. Saturday was “very busy,” he said, but business Sunday was down 20 percent, in sharp contrast to the same day in 2008 when the hotel was sold out.

On a brighter note, Fleck and other hoteliers said they hope September will bring a steady number of senior citizens, via charter buses, as in the past.

Meanwhile, the Albany-based State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is expected to release statewide attendance figures — for the Labor Day weekend — later this week.

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