Tourist attractions are now opening, after closing for 100 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Aquarium of Niagara opened on Saturday and welcomed 1,300 visitors. Sunday, there was a steady stream of locals and tourists moving through the facility and watching the cavorting sea lions and the swimming penguins and the other exhibits in the long-time tourist attractions.
Executive Director Gary Siddall said Niagara County Cultural attractions are working together.
"We’re seeing a reduction in the tourist numbers, but we’ve tried to look at this somewhat optimistically because we are seeing folks changing their mindset," Siddall said. "They had their summer vacations planned and oftentimes, those were out of state or even out of country. So we’re encouraging folks, like all of our other Niagara County tourism partners, to consider revisiting their own backyard. Coming out to the Aquarium, visiting Fort Niagara. There’s lots of great things here in Niagara County."
Siddall said the long shutdown has been hard on the aquarium, with an annual food bill of $2 million and no visitor revenue coming in from more than three months. That total raised slightly by the herd of baby penguins who arrived during the shutdown.
Siddall said the return of faces on the other side of the glass may have surprised some Aquarium residents.
"Their initial reaction was surprise. It’s been a while since they had seen them," he said. "But when we started welcoming the larger groups again, their reaction was certainly was a positive one. They didn’t show any signs of anything except a forward-looking sense for their environment."