Niagara Falls hit hard as tourism is down over 16% from pre-pandemic levels

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Published March 31, 2023 at 11:14 am

Tourists and visitors experience the Journey Behind the Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

According to Statistics Canada, while tourism grew 2.1 per cent in the fourth quarter (Oct. to Dec.) from the previous quarter, it is still down a staggering 16.2 per cent from the last quarter of 2019, the most accurate yardstick for the industry of pre-pandemic times.

That’s bad news for Niagara Falls as 40,000 residents are tied directly to the tourism industry as it’s far-and-away the largest economic generator for the border city.

However, the same Stats-Can report, which deals with tourism numbers on a country-wide basis, does offer a glimmer of hope. By comparison, in the fourth quarter of 2021, tourism spending was 34.8 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels.

That means things are at least headed in the right direction. Being 16.2 per cent down is a huge step up from being 34.8 per cent down just a year earlier.

With all COVID-19 restrictions virtually lifted now, something that wasn’t the case last year, 2023 is poised to be a bounce-back year for Niagara Falls.

The controversial ArriveCAN app previously needed for cross-border travel has been eliminated and many believe, including Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, it was a serious impediment to Americans coming north.

According to Nov. 2022 figures released by the federal government, tourism is the primary financial driver in Niagara Falls and by extension, Niagara Region. Tourism spending in Niagara region is more than $2 billion annually and it’s estimated for every $10 spent on tourism activities, $7 is also spent indirectly in the community, going to local businesses.

So will 2023 be the year Niagara Falls bounces back to pre-pandemic levels? Like anything else, it’s a wait-and-see game. However, the straight numbers from Stats-Can indicate tourism is returning to the border city, albeit moving upwards slowly.

The second quarter of 2023 (Apr. to June) and upcoming border crossing numbers will tell the eventual tale.

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