Travel and Leisure
has ranked Niagara Falls as #5
when it comes to World's Most Visited Tourist Attractions. How far are we from Niagara Falls? Oh yeah, approximately 25 miles. It's not like this sort of rankling is something new - at least to Western New Yorkers, rather it is a periodic wake-up call... a Homer Simpson "D'oh!" moment that makes us try on our best marketing thinking caps (again). Up until now those thinking caps have looked more like dunce caps. Then again, as the Canadian side of The Falls has continually thrived, the American side has languished. Meaning that once a visitor ends up on the Canadian side of The Falls, a 1+ hour trip to Toronto probably looks a lot more appealing than a cross-border stopover to Buffalo.
With 22,500,000 visitors to the falls each year, you would think that Buffalo could peal some of that traffic away. What is it going to take to get some of these visitors to take the 20+ mile drive? Chicken wings, a refurbished Statler or Hotel Lafayette, a killer destination restaurant, a booming Inner Harbor, the world's largest electric chair? I'm not being morbid - the electric chair was invented here, as was air conditioning, but I don't think the world's largest air conditioner would be as fascinating. Or will we have to settle for a faction of travelers passing around Buffalo as they head from our airport directly to The Falls?
Yesterday I met up with a guy who just relocated to Buffalo from NYC. He's kind of a hot shot in the hospitality development industry, and he wanted to know what the lay of the land was like here in Buffalo. We discussed all sorts of potential projects that would be good for this city - projects that would not only be exciting, but would also attract enough people to make them financially viable. Projects that we really haven't seen here yet. Being so close to Toronto and Niagara Falls, would the right idea, with the right kind of backing, be able to attract enough visitors to justify significant investment? 22,500,000 visitors to The Falls is a lot of people. As the Canadian side continues to invest in hotels and attractions, and the American side starts to awaken from its long slumber, those traffic counts will most likely escalate. At the same time, Toronto continues to be one of the fastest growing cities in North America. What will it take for Buffalo to begin to capitalize on the tourism success of our Canadian neighbors?