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Western New York leaders address tourism industry challenges

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins led a roundtable discussion. Many issues had been brought up before: not enough workers, border restrictions, and a lack of business travel.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — With travel at the border still below pre-pandemic levels, leaders from several industries got together Wednesday afternoon to figure out ways to boost tourism in Western New York.

A lot of the issues have been brought up before: not enough workers, restrictions at the border, and a lack of business travel.

"For Erie County, we were down 6.5% in overall visitor spending from 2019 to 2021," said Patrick Kaler, the president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara.

But in Niagara County it was up 9.3%, which, according to tourism officials, can likely be attributed to hotel rates being higher. 

This roundtable discussion at the Aquarium of Niagara brought together politicians, tourism industry experts, and leaders all dealing with the strain the pandemic still has on tourism and the economy. They look to 2019 numbers for our region and want to surpass them. 

"We shouldn't be just trying to get back there, we should try to get back there and exceed it because the greatest inducement to travel, I said the ease of travel, and there are a lot of restrictions in place, COVID-related and prior to COVID, as well, and we need to get rid of those," U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins. 

Like the ArriveCAN app.

As a solution, the group decided to reach out to more colleagues to have a bigger voice in Washington. 

"Two things that really stood out for me today are, you know, simple things, but we need to speak with one voice, and I am true believer in that we need to do it in this region, but we learned today we need to do it cross all the northern borders. Our colleagues sometimes, we get so in our bubbles and forget that we have colleagues all across the northern borders that we can work with," said John Percy, president and CEO of Destination Niagara USA.

The restrictions to cross the border to get into Canada will stay in effect until at least Sept. 30, 2022.

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