A barrel of fun: Niagara Falls touts thrills in rebranding
For decades, thrill seekers at Niagara Falls have gone over the brink in barrels, and now, officials want it to be the place the rest of us go for outdoor adventure, too.
A marketing effort has been launched to rebrand the New York state shore of the falls as a natural playground. It should be explored on foot, bike, boat or helicopter.
U.S. tourism officials are always in competition with their counterparts on the heavily developed Canadian side of the attraction. The Americans say their new focus embraces the New York side's less commercial feel. They hope it will attract more visitors for longer stays.
"What people are wanting to have on a getaway or a vacation is a time of experience and not just to come and witness or see and hear, but actually experience and touch and feel and do," said John Percy. He is president and chief executive of Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp. It has been renamed Destination Niagara USA.
"Niagara Falls is the embodiment of America's adventurous spirit," he said.
The refocusing comes just in time for the busy season. It follows interviews, focus groups and visitor surveys. These found that those who visit and live in the region most value its scenic, historical and natural attributes. And visitors are drawn to outdoor adventure, officials said.
The findings align with support for the ongoing removal of a highway. It was built along the Niagara River. This will increase access to the water's edge, as well as strong opposition to a proposal to build a lodge on rustic Goat Island inside Niagara Falls State Park. Opponents of the lodge cite renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted's declaration. He made it more than 100 years ago. He said the area should be off limits to developers.
It's a marked contrast to Niagara Falls, Ontario. There, neon-lit museums, rides and restaurants offer a carnival-like atmosphere at the water's edge.
Niagara Falls State Park sees about 8 million visitors every year. They come from all over the world. It is a number that has been steadily rising, Percy said, along with hotel visits and dollars spent.
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