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Aug. 15, 2020 | Saturday
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NOTL is more than Queen Street, says new chamber president
Eduardo Lafforgue is a new president of NOTL's chamber of commerce. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Niagara-on-the-Lake has to retain its authenticity and not turn into an amusement park tourist attraction, says the new president of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce.

“We are walking a very fine line between authenticity and becoming a theme park,” Eduardo Lafforgue told council Monday night during a special presentation.

Lafforgue was appointed as the chamber’s new president in May when Janice Thomson left the position to become CEO of Niagara Falls Toursim after running the chamber for 18 years.

NOTL’s brand is all about being a genuine “place where everyone dreams to be once in their lives in North America,” Lafforgue told councillors.

“People come here for something that they might not have anymore,” he said. “We have to be very careful if our wineries, vineyards become just landscape instead of becoming a product at the end.”

NOTL is also a mature destination, he said. There are extraordinary assets here, such as the airport, history, culture, Shaw Festival and Queen Street, which have to be managed in order to maximize their value.

Three values – economic, socio-cultural and environmental – need to work together, he said, as those values are a part of the DNA of the destination.

Some of the strategic objectives, which are a part of Lafforgue’s action plan, include reducing seasonality, balancing day trips and overnight trips, increasing visitor spending as well as building economic, social and environmental sustainability. He also said he hopes to show some growth in the next six months.

Coun. Gary Burroughs asked how the chamber would make sure there is a balance between residents and tourists.

“If there is no balance, we will lose that authenticity when it becomes a theme park,” Lafforgue responded. “We need to be very careful.”

NOTL is far more than Queen Street, Lafforgue said. In order to preserve it and take some pressure off Old Town, tourism will have to be spread across all five communities in town. If all villages don’t work together, someone from the outside will “tell us what to do,” Lafforgue said.

Coun. Stuart McCormack agreed that the town doesn’t want to become a Disney World-style of attraction.

“We want to be a live community here where people can enjoy themselves,” McCormack noted. “We don’t want to be a hotel room for the world.”