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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, May 28, 2024
NOTL businesses happy with economic benefits created by the eclipse
NOTL walking tours normally attract a handful of people this time of year. On Monday, April 8 - the day of the eclipse - local tour guides took advantage of the increased presence in town and were happy to engage much larger crowds than normal. Richard Wright
The increased walking traffic along Queen St. on Monday, April 8 was reminiscent of a summer day when tourism is at its peak. Local businesses reaped the benefits of the added presence in town. Richard Wright

Eclipses are good for business.

That’s the word from the Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Chamber of Commerce following one of the busiest off-season weekends the community can remember.

“April is not necessarily a peak time for us. Things start ramping up normally after the May long weekend,” says Minerva Ward, president and CEO of the chamber and Tourism Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“So, it was nice to see that level of business in town.”

It was also encouraging to see length of time people stayed, she added.

The chamber has been actively promoting NOTL for multi-day stays, to complement the day-trip destination it already is for many.

“We saw people coming in on Friday. They stayed in hotels, B&Bs, they ate in town — breakfast, lunch and dinner — they are probably doing the Shaw plays, they are doing wineries, they do a bit of shopping while they are here and they are taking in the attractions. That was more of our focus.”

Because of the eclipse and the added length of stay, local shops, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, walkways and public spaces definitely saw increased action, reminiscent of the vitality experienced here on a summer’s day.

“It was good energy – lots of people from all over the world,” said Ward.

Not as many people as predicted, however.

Official estimates of a million people or more coming to Niagara for the eclipse never did come to fruition. For NOTL business, not hitting that mark was a blessing despite the added dollars each individual would have brought with them.

“The numbers we got were great. We didn’t want a situation where we could not handle the volume and thankfully it didn’t get to that point,” Ward said.

“Niagara-on-the-Lake doesn’t have the space or capacity for it. We had to be realistic about parking and traffic and infrastructure.”

For that reason, she said her organization started more than a year ago making efforts to mitigate crowd sizes and added traffic due to the eclipse excitement.

“We took a strategic decision not to market Niagara-on-the-Lake as a place to visit for the eclipse just because we understand this is a small town with limited space,” she said.

“We knew that people were going to come anyway for the eclipse, and they did. What we did was alert businesses that the eclipse is happening and that they should start thinking of private events and their places.”

Indeed, that is what happened. Wineries, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, cycling companies, B&Bs and other business such as the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club all had events or special offers planned on their own.

Ahead for the chamber — now that the eclipse has passed and the hype has dwindled — it’s back to the regular business of promoting NOTL. Expectations for the local economy in 2024 are good but cautious.

“We are looking forward to a good season,” said Ward. “We are really trying to build more a year-round destination place, but the reality is that spring, summer and fall are the peak times for us, so we are looking forward to that.”

“But we are conscious that people are spending less. People have less disposable income,” she acknowledged.

“Inflation has obviously eroded some people’s purchasing power. People are a little more conscious about how they are spending money.”

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