NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Tourism was among the first and hardest hit industries by the COVID pandemic. However, in Niagara Falls, Memorial Day weekend showed brighter days are on the horizon.
"Just in the last couple days, I've spoken to a couple of the hoteliers here and they have used the word 'awesome.' It's a word I have not heard over the past 14 to 15 months," said John Percy, the president and CEO of Destination Niagara USA.
Percy told 2 On Your Side the proof is in the numbers, referencing new data from Smith Travel Research.
"Saturday's occupancy, I didn't anticipate it being that large, but it was 97.3 percent for Saturday. The national average was 83 percent," Percy said.
He added that the average daily rates for Friday and Saturday were also above the national average.
"Our partners have had a devastating impact to their bottom lines over the last 14 months, and to see us coming back from the brink, literally, to a wonderful, solid weekend is very exciting to me and to all of us here," Percy said.
Percy believes this is a telling indicator of what this summer season will look like, adding that the Memorial Day weekend data is reflective of the current situation, without conventions or international travel.
"This is domestic, leisure, family travel primarily making up the meat of what we're seeing right now," Percy said. "To see these numbers, I think we are going to have a year that we may see 75 to 80 percent of 2019 numbers, where my initial projection was 60 percent."
As for what's setting Niagara Falls ahead of other destinations, Percy thinks it has to do with the region's wide-open spaces and Destination Niagara's messaging to those looking to cross the falls off their bucket list.
He said at this point, their visitation is primarily from people within an eight-hour driving distance but that could expand in the coming months as restrictions continue to be lifted and as people get more comfortable with the idea of traveling once again.