BUFFALO, N.Y. - The summit, organized by Visit Buffalo Niagara, started Wednesday with a tour of Harbor Center, Canalside, the downtown medical campus, the Hotel Henry, the Darwin Martin Complex, and various other sites along the way.
It continued Thursday with meetings. They met with local leaders and tourism officials to give a review of all they saw and some feedback about what could be improved.
Visit Buffalo Niagara President, Patrick Kaler, tells us the hope is that they'll use their resources to help promote Buffalo.
"Our visiting guests can spread the word about our destination's exciting resurgence to their networks across the United States," Kaler said.
All of the visiting professionals had a number of complimentary things to say about the city. There was consensus that the city's rebirth, as well as it's cultural, historical, and architectural aspects, are a huge draw to the area.
Buffalo got glowing reviews for being a walkable city, giving visitors easy access to and from hotels, eateries, and entertainment. They liked that the waterfront had a number of opportunities for leisure trips.
And there's the medical campus, which puts Buffalo in a better position to host medical conventions and training sessions
Harry Schmidt, President and CEO of the Religious Conference Management Association, tells Channel 2 what also looks good about Buffalo are the projects the city has in the works, such as the projected late-2018 opening of the Explore and More Children's Museum at Canalside, and the promise of more hotels in the area.
Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of Public Affairs of the US Travel Association, adds that increased offerings along the waterfront make Buffalo extremely attractive to traveling families both nationally and aboard.
In terms of constructive criticism, all of the tourism leaders seemed to be on the same page about the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center needing serious attention.
They believe, in order to bring bigger events and meetings to the downtown area, that improvement should be a priority.
Erie County is now working on a study of the convention center.
Kaler also noted that the Buffalo Niagara International Airport also came up as as area that needs improvement.
Al Kidd, President and CEO of the National Associations of Sports Commissions, tells Channel 2 he recommended boosting local tourism numbers by development of amateur sports facilities.
Summit participants were enthusiastic about facilities like the Harbor Center, but Kidd believes the surrounding area could be doing much more to woo tournament sports which are gaining popularity like paralympic games, soccer, lacrosse, and women's rugby.
He says girl's softball and women's volleyball are huge money makers since they bring in thousands of players and their families for a number of days in a row. He gave the example of a soccer tournament in San Diego, California that brought in 350 teams and $23 million in economic impact.
But Kidd tells Channel 2 there are currently not enough facilities available to attract these large amateur sport tournaments. He said surrounding communities could work on the development of flat ground for field tournaments, and the county should consider higher ceilings at the convention center to accommodate women's volleyball.
While Buffalo does have marathon racing, Kidd says those kinds of events are on the decline. He explains that races like Tough Mudder are increasingly popular with millennials and he believes if Western New York can be open to hosting those alternatives, that could bring in thousands of people to the region to spend money.
"This summit provides an incredible opportunity for our resurgent destination," said Kaler. "Our partner attractions across Buffalo can learn from leading travel and tourism experts on how to best position Buffalo as a visitor destination."
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