WNY tourism experts anticipate higher local tourism spending amid rising gasoline prices

NIAGARA FALLS, NY (WKBW) — As gas prices slowly begin to fall, families are expected to start grappling with summer vacation plans.

According to AAA, flights, tours, rental cars and hotels for March, April and May are up more than 200% year-on-year and 10% compared to 2019.

Currently, the five most popular travel destinations for western New Yorkers are Orlando, Cancun, Honolulu, Las Vegas and Maui.

Local tourism is still expected to be the place to venture for those looking to save a few bucks due to high gas prices combined with long commutes.

“Our job is to show travelers how much more there is to see and do in this region beyond just seeing the water going over the abyss. So it’s important for us to present all of the different factors,” said John Percy, President and CEO of Destination Niagara USA.

With gas prices still at record levels, tourism departments in western New York are working to encourage locals and residents to visit this side of the lake.

“I’ve been at it for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of crises and gas spikes and stuff like that in the past. Typically, this target performs best during a crisis, a post-crisis, or even a gasoline crisis that we’re experiencing, or a price spike,” Percy said.

Destination Niagara Falls USA President John Percy said the department’s goal is to attract visitors from cities like Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

“What we have discovered is that these people are traveling closer to home and we will bring in our advertising. Tighten it up a little and stay a little closer to home within an 8-hour radius because that’s kind of a one-tank getaway,” Percy said.

Ask people like Buffalo native Jonathan Rinaldo, who said he enjoys being a tourist in his hometown no matter what the gas prices.

“With the rising cost of just about everything, especially gas prices, you have to do your best to have fun every day. Everything in the local economy to enjoy yourself as much as possible,” said Jonathan Rinaldo. “I like everything about this place. There’s no shortage of good restaurants to go to like we’ve got the wings and pizza that can’t be found anywhere else.”

While the end of the pandemic is hopefully in sight, Percy added he expects families to disregard the price of gas given the amount of pent-up energy dealing with COVID and what feels like an extended winter season.

It’s been two years and a lot has been saved. There was huge savings from people saving money from the government incentives and whatnot. A few years of pent-up demand, i.e. petrol prices, can be avoided this year. There are so many factors that can go into this traveler’s psyche this year. To get out of COVID and if they haven’t traveled and want to get away, gas won’t stop them. If they want to leave, the prices won’t stop them,” Percy said.

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