Task force looks to help reopen WNY’s tourism industry

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(WIVB) – Tourism in the Queen City has taken a hit from the coronavirus pandemic, but a tourism recovery task force hopes to change that. 

Visit Buffalo Niagara says the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on the tourism industry- so they’re making plans for when they’re able to reopen.

“We want to make sure on day one that we are ready to hit the go button,” Patrick Kaler, Visit Buffalo Niagara president and CEO, said.

Normally, around this time, Niagara Falls is booming with tourists from different states and countries, but during the coronavirus pandemic the Falls no longer draws in those large crowds.

Kaler says that not only is the attraction losing revenue, but the tourism industry has had to cancel dozens of concerts, conventions and other events. 

“Those 62 events had an economic impact of over 20 million dollars,” Kaler said.

To help the region’s tourism economy bounce back, Visit Buffalo Niagara has created the Tourism Recovery Task Force.

The task force includes representatives from  The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Darwin Martin House and Marriott Harborcenter. 

“We understand the consequences of opening up too soon, we want to make sure that our businesses that our employees that are working those front lines feel safe going back into the workplace as well as our travelers who are coming to our destination,” Kaler said.

Shea’s Performing Arts Center is another tourist hot spot that has been losing money because of the pandemic. 

“It’s been very tough having to postpone shows- we had to postpone three shows as well as shows in 710,” Michael Murphy, president of Shea’s Performing Arts Center said. “Three of our Broadway shows were moved until next season, so we’re waiting to see what happens.”

Murphy, who is also part of the task force, says it’s going to be a while until they can have large crowds again inside the theater and they’re preparing for that. 

“It’s going to be a lot of learning for a lot of people, everyone is going to have to learn to adapt to this in the public and we’re prepared to work with people and make everyone comfortable once we can reopen at Shea’s and all the theaters in Western New York,” Murphy said.

Kaler says there are still many public health questions and safety concerns that need to be addressed but it is something he says they want to be prepared for sooner than later. 

“It’s going to be tough in the beginning hopefully we will get this thing contained and we can get back to whatever the new normal is, for our entire tourism industry,” Kaler said.

The tourism recovery task force has been in the works for a few weeks now, Kaler said. Their goal is to come up with a plan that’s safe and efficient to beat out other tourism destinations when it’s time for them to reopen.

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