According to Destination Niagara USA president and CEO John Percy, Memorial Day weekend usually indicates what the summer season is going to be like.
When the COVID pandemic hit, tourism was among the first and hardest hit industries. Niagara Falls, however, had a brighter weekend over Memorial Day weekend.
“The last couple of days, I talked with a few hoteliers and they spoke in terms of ‘awesome.’ That is a word that I have not heard over the last 14 to 15 months,” explained John Percy, the president and CEO of Destination Niagara USA.
Percy told reporters the proof is in the numbers, referencing new data from Smith Travel Research.
“Saturday’s occupancy, I didn’t anticipate it being that large, but it was 97.3 per cent for Saturday. The national average was 83 per cent,” Percy said.
He added that the average daily rates for Friday and Saturday were also above the national average.
Percy said that our partners had had a devastating impact on their bottom lines over the last 14 months, and so seeing us come back from the brink, literally, to a wonderful, solid weekend is extremely gratifying to us all.
Percy believes this is a telling indicator of what this summer season will look like, adding that the Memorial Day weekend data is reflective of the current situation, without conventions or international travel.
“This is domestic, leisure, family travel primarily making up the meat of what we’re seeing right now,” Percy said. “To see these numbers, I think we are going to have a year that we may see 75 to 80 per cent of 2019 numbers, where my initial projection was 60 per cent.”
As for what’s setting Niagara Falls ahead of other destinations, Percy thinks it has to do with the region’s wide-open spaces and Destination Niagara’s messaging to those looking to cross the falls off their bucket list.
He said at this point, their visitation is primarily from people within an eight-hour driving distance but that could expand in the coming months as restrictions continue to be lifted and as people get more comfortable with the idea of travelling once again.