Western New Yorkers see themselves as Buffalo ambassadors
Erie County residents love tourists. When confronted with curious outsiders, locals feel like ambassadors. They’re proud to share their insider point of views about the best place to get wings and what’s great about living here. That’s the kind of reception that leads to authentic experiences that tourists seek out, said Patrick Kaler, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara.
“It does show that we are the ‘City of Good Neighbors,’” he said. “Buffalonians are very proud … It’s a good thing because it makes a visitor feel more welcome.”
In an effort to help lift tourism back up to pre-pandemic levels, this year Visit Buffalo Niagara commissioned a resident sentiment survey and discovered some encouraging news: Locals believe tourism improves everyone’s quality of life. Most say it boosts the economy, preserves local culture, protects natural resources, helps the environment and leads everyone to enjoy the best parts of living here.
“The response was so strong in favor of tourism,” said Kaler. “That was a pleasant surprise.”
Local appreciation for tourism has grown since the pandemic. During the past two years, businesses noticed the drop in tourism that is now on the rebound. “We heard from many of our local businesses who said that they realize, even more so now, the importance of that visitor economy,” said Kaler. “They need those visitors coming in to supplement their business model and their revenues.”
The survey also confirmed that Western New York is a profoundly sports-loving place. Two thirds say hosting youth, amateur, college and professional teams, and outdoor events, like marathons and bike races, helps the economy.
For Kaler, this was great news for the Buffalo Niagara Sports Commission, a subsidiary of Visit Buffalo Niagara, which is Erie County’s lead tourism marketing organization. “There is a breadth of unique events that are out there that Buffalo can host and that will be welcomed by our community,” he said.
Chiclets Cup (Photo by Buffalo RiverWorks / Facebook)
This includes new tournaments, like the street hockey Chiclets Cup and a horseshoe toss championship. Locals, just like tourists, get to come out to enjoy new sporting events, along with classic events the region is known for.
Research also shows that tourism has been benefitting Western New Yorkers by offsetting taxes by about $598 per household. “Without that tourism revenue, residents would be paying more in their overall tax bills,” said Kaler.
This is a number that will keep rising as tourism increases. “That number has grown significantly as our overall visitation has grown through the years,” he said.
Locals also appreciate the city’s convention center, now in the midst of an ongoing renovation. Six out of 10 people believe its events contribute money and business to the community. The same number say it should expand and get more government funding.
The news that people here are tourism fans and advocates was heartening to Kaler. “Residents do want visitors to come in and,” he said, “experience what we get to experience every single day.”