Road trips

Tourism, Driven by Domestic Travelers, Challenged by Inflation and Gas Prices | Business premises

Tourism, Driven by Domestic Travelers, Challenged by Inflation and Gas Prices |  Business premises

The last real vacation Zhang Wei took was a trip to Italy before Covid. He had thought of a trip to Napa Valley. Instead, he decided to drive from Syracuse and visit Niagara Falls.

He just wasn’t ready to fly, and with fears growing that the economy was slowing, he felt better off doing something more affordable.

“I don’t think of it as a vacation. It’s like a getaway,” he said. “But I needed a getaway.”

Wei is typical of tourists visiting Niagara Falls this year.

Overall, the local tourism industry is doing better this year than last, but business is still far from pre-pandemic levels.

What’s missing are international tourists, still wary of making long journeys with the persistence of Covid and often daunting border regulations.

And although Americans from neighboring states have stepped up their visits, the two visitors are not created equal. Local tourists tend to be more frugal than international tourists — who tend to spend up to three times as much, according to Visit Buffalo Niagara.

The good news is that, for domestic tourists, Niagara Falls is a no-brainer post-Covid vacation. Not only can it be driven for large populations, making it less complicated and less expensive than travel requiring a flight, but it takes place outdoors in wide open spaces – where social distancing is natural.

Yet there are forces that defy inland travel in Niagara Falls. For one thing, the ArriveCan app is scaring some tourists away from the Canadian border, prompting them to abandon their plans for the falls altogether. And high gasoline prices are hampering car travel.

Tourists in ponchos walk by the American at Niagara Falls State Park in Niagara Falls.

At first glance, it seems that the difficulty of crossing means that more tourists stay in the United States rather than leave to spend money in Canada.

But in reality, it may mean that fewer tourists come to the falls.

“We don’t know how many of those people just said, ‘This year, with all this gibberish with the ArriveCan app and so on, you know, I hear the Jersey Shore is nice. Or “You know what, why don’t we go to Nags Head, North Carolina? Just a place that doesn’t have border crossing issues,” said John Kinney, president of Whirlpool Jetboat Tours.

In other words, Ontario’s problems are New York’s problems.

“A robust Canadian tourism economy is good for the US side,” Kinney said.

Officials of Destination Niagara USA, the Niagara Falls tourist board, believe the falls are reaping the rewards of their strategic advertising campaigns over the past two years, first reminding travelers that they were “open for business” in 2020. , then touting its “wide open spaces”. ” Last year.

“We’re on everyone’s list and we’re affordable,” said John Percy, President and CEO of Destination Niagara USA. “The population within eight hours by motor vehicle is in the millions. And I think we’ve targeted that population very strategically.”

Hotels are a beacon of hope. Demand for hotel rooms increased by 12% compared to last year, with supply remaining stable. This equated to higher occupancy, a higher average daily rate, and higher revenue per available room. Last year’s revenue was already above pre-pandemic levels. The average daily rate in June was $151, up 9% from a year ago. Occupancy rates were 75% but exceeded the national average of 70%.

“We really go against that national norm sometimes that people maybe aren’t doing so well,” Percy said. “I think it’s because we’re so recreationally focused and accessible to so many people. We’re affordable, accessible, rideable – it all points positively to our direction.”

Niagara Falls Adventure Tours guide Darin Harper leads tourists on the Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls.

This is not the first time that the Niagara region has fared better than others.

“Even when there have been economic downturns or the 9/11 crisis, you know, we’re still doing better than most,” Percy said. “I was hoping that would come true here during Covid and during this crisis we’ve fared better than many destinations.”

But international travel has still not recovered.

India is Niagara’s number one visitor country, followed by China and Korea. These travelers have started to return but not to their usual extent, and they are not expected to return to their pre-Covid numbers until late 2023 and 2024, Percy said.

“Once you’re quarantined and go into a household pattern, it takes time to let go,” he said.

And it will take time for the convention and business meeting markets to reopen.

“Companies are very excited about their bottom line not spending that money on business travel,” he said.

For families, high gas prices are throwing a wrench in the bottom line. A road trip to the falls may be cheaper than a flight to Disney, but it’s still more expensive than it has been in recent years.

And it’s not just the gas needed to travel. It also makes some excursions more expensive. The Whirlpool Jets, for example, were forced to add a 6% gas surcharge to each trip to help cover its doubled fuel costs.

And with inflation higher than it has been in 40 years, tourists need to plan their meals, souvenirs and excursions more carefully.

Buffalo Niagara’s reasonable prices make it attractive at times like these, said Detroit’s Michele Gutierrez, who considered trips to New York and Toronto before settling on the falls.

“Around here the prices aren’t bad,” she said.

These budget-conscious shoppers have been a boon to Niagara Falls Adventures, a Niagara Falls travel company that focuses on being affordable and easy.

“I’m busier than I’ve ever been,” said company CEO Nick Hurd.

“I think the same people who are worried about gas prices are looking for an affordable option,” Hurd said.

Another concern among domestic travelers is what is needed to cross the border into Canada. Requirements have tightened during Covid – repeatedly requiring negative Covid tests and other documentation.

Several Canadian mayors along the border have spoken out against the ArriveCan requirement, saying it is a barrier for those looking to travel to Canada.

Canada requires visitors to complete the ArriveCan application before entering the country, which includes photographing travel documents and proof of vaccinations. Some seniors have complained that they don’t have the digital technology skills to complete the app, or the smartphone to carry it around.

Niagara Falls Adventures has just launched a website that is a one-stop-shop for things to do on the American side of the falls.

“It does not affect anything in Niagara Falls, Canada. And the main reason is that we want people to know if they come to our website, they don’t have to worry about whether they have a passport or if they need to be vaccinated, all you have to do is come to our site and everything you can buy there will be on the American side.

Leave a Comment