On both sides of the Niagara Gorge, tourism promoters are expecting a drop in overseas tourists because of COVID-19 and more domestic tourists arriving by car.
With some countries sealed off from the outside world and airlines shutting off service in the struggle against COVID-19, the outlook for international travel this year isn't great. That is going to hurt both sides of Niagara Falls, which are destinations for an estimated 8 million people annually, bringing major numbers of dollars.
Tourist agencies have to look back into history, like the 2003 SARS epidemic and evaluate what happened. What did? American and Canadian tourists stayed closer to home and behind the wheel, keeping major dollars in their pockets.
Niagara Falls, Ontario mayor Jim Diodati said he is expecting the same this year.
"We expect to have an increase in domestic tourism and crossborder tourism," Diodati said, "and for Niagara Falls, New York, for Mayor [Robert] Restaino, that would mean Canadians coming into his jurisdiction and for us, people coming from his jurisdiction into Canada. So, we're hopeful that it's going to end up being a wash, that the loss in international will be made up with domestic tourism."
Destination Niagara USA said the health crisis requires shifting the plans of travelers.
"They were planning a big trip on an airplane to another country or to the other side of the country," said Operations Vice President Andrea Czopp. "We're really hoping that if we can really beef up our target markets in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C. and monitor that performance, that we can continue to really push those digital efforts to try and get even more people here to enjoy everything that we have here."
Diodati and Niagara-on-the-Lake Lord Mayor Betty Disero put out a statement saying the two communities are working hard to ensure the situation remains calm and under control. That ranges from special cleaning of transit vehicles to strict enforcement of health codes in the many restaurants used by tourists.
"To make sure that the freezers and the fridges are at certain temperatures, there's no bacteria growing on the counters and the floors, and the people washing their hands and they have cleaning protocols," said Diodati. "And we're pretty strict here. We take food poisoning and things of that nature very, very serious. And I think it's a matter of doing what we have already been doing, but stepping it up another notch."