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Selling Niagara in Chicago

I have always thought Chicago was a logical market for Niagara Falls tourism.  Flights from the Windy City are inexpensive and short —just right for an easy long weekend vacation away from the flatlands of the midwest.  Sell its 9 million people on the wonders of Niagara and the region can start printing tourist dollars. Alas, no such sales pitch existed of much substance—until recently that is.  Things have changed, however. In the last few months I’ve been seeing Niagara Falls all over Chicago in two big promotional campaigns.

The first campaign to come along is in the form of hundreds of bus shelter ads across the city.  The ads are about 7 feet tall, posted from downtown to the neighborhoods.  They depict New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge on top with a broad view of the Falls at the bottom. The tag line is “There are two sides to every adventure. Plan your NYC-toNiagara Falls USA trip at  . The campaign is sponsored by NYC, The Official , Niagara Falls USA, and I Love NY.

As nice as it is to see this advertisements all over Chicago, I don’t find the ad to be very effective.  The gritty black and white images they used look more like the a billboard from a 1970s cop movie—like Serpico or something.  The only color is a weird red log in the top left corner.  The Niagara Falls USA web site has far far far more compelling imagery. But the worst part of this ad is that it ties NYC and Niagara Falls together as if they are near each other. “Hey, take a jaunt to NYC and see the Falls too!”  Midwesterners are geographically challenged as it is. This ad does not help them at all.  I’m betting most people who see this in Chicago will think Niagara Falls and NYC are near each other.  It’s almost as if the New York State tourism authorities are embarrassed to let Niagara Falls stand on its own.  Of course, Niagara Falls CAN stand on its own and should.  This kind of second-rate attention to the Falls at the state level is just another symptom of the NY’s downstate myopia.  Niagara Falls New York should be as beautiful and fun as its Canadian sister city. It is far from that, as we know. NY State needs to step up its game and make Niagara Falls the world attraction it can be.

Contrast this bus stop campaign to the second ad blitz that recently promoted Niagara Falls in the Chicago region.  A few weeks back, a 3/8″ thick glossy tourism guide was included with the Sunday Chicago Tribune.  The beautifully designed, richly printed guide is packed with gorgeous pictures and information promoting the Niagara Parks of Ontario’s Niagara Region. You can’t hold this book in your hand without thinking that your next summer trip should be Niagara Falls. (or winter for that mater, the book includes a winter travel section)

Image from the Niagara Parks brochure.

The Niagara Parks were established by the Province of Ontario in 1885.  They form a continuous string of green space and attractions from Fort Niagara to Niagara on the Lake.  It is the jewel of the Niagara Region and pride of its 400,000 citizens.  Unlike NY,  Ontario recognizes Niagara Falls and the entire Niagara River as a major economic engine and has invested heavily in its success.  The parks are immaculate and packed with things for visitors to do.  The NY side?  Not so much.

Anyway,  it is good to see the region selling itself to the vast population that rings the Great Lakes.  It is a no brainer.


Images from the Niagara Parks brochure.

Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

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