VBN Ventures to the Airport

In a stroke of genius, Visit Buffalo Niagara (VBN) has announced that it is opening a visitor center at the airport. I’m sure that collectively there are a good number of us that are thinking, “Better late than never.” That’s not a slam against the VBN, it’s just that this measure is long past due. “Four years ago, Visit Buffalo Niagara created a strategic plan that called for adding a Buffalo Niagara Visitor Center in the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Today, we are making that plan a reality,” said Visit Buffalo Niagara President and CEO Dottie Gallagher-Cohen. “Five million passengers fly in and out of the airport each year. Capturing even a fraction of this audience will have an enormous impact on our tourism industry.”

Thanks to an impressive donation of $100,000 from First Niagara Bank the project finally has some real legs. LP Ciminelli also stepped up by donating services towards the visitor center. Soon, Buffalo will have a way to direct visitors to restaurants, cultural destinations, shopping districts, etc. It’s nice to know that curious travelers, who are unfamiliar with Buffalo, will no longer just pick the closest hotels and restaurants to the airport. Having an enthusiastic and knowledgable attendant on staff could do wonders for people who are interested in exploring, but don’t want to succumb to trial and error. This could be an excellent way to divert some people to stay downtown at one of the newest hotels before heading off to The Falls for a sightseeing excursion. 
Now, maybe it’s time to relocate the downtown visitors’ center, currently found in the Market Arcade, to the Peace Bridge. I can think of the perfect little chapel – the Hutchinson Chapel. Now that would be a real coup. 
Visitors-Center-airport-Buffalo-NY.jpg

About the author  ⁄ WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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22 comments
brownteeth
brownteeth

Actually many Canadians from Southern Ontario fly in and out of Buffalo in lieu of Toronto airport.

DeanerPPX
DeanerPPX

There should be one of these at each airport (NF too), the Peace Bridge, the Rainbow Bridge, the bus terminal (BUF and NF), the Amtrak station(s), and the Thruway rest areas at Clarence and Angola. One at the Galleria and Outlet Mall too. Even the downtown visitors center could use a more visible and accessible site like Court St Plaza or the Arena, instead of being hidden away inside the Market Arcade.

Even if they're not manned, an automated kiosk with up-to-date brochures and information about attractions and activities would suffice, provided it is maintained once a week or so. Add an info phone like the hotel/car rental display on the lower level of the airport, so people can talk to a live person if they have questions.

It's bad enough that the region does little to actively attract visitors... but once they're already here, we don't let them know what there is to see and do. It should be our GOAL that every visitor leave feeling that they didn't have enough time to see everything, NOT walking away bored because they checked everything off their list in a single afternoon.

If it takes another 4-10 years, fine. Just get it done.

The Boss
The Boss

Holy crap there is a ton of pent up frustration in a lot of commenters and so many people living here, we just so badly want to be like someplace else we have been to. Stuff is happening at a faster clip than ever before but it still just fast enough.

grad94
grad94

maybe you don't remember red budget/green budget but it forced the cvb to cut half or more of its staff. it isn't like subsequent county executives restored much of that funding or released the hotel bed tax, which was intended to support tourism promotion but instead got hijacked into the county's general fund. if i have any of this wrong wrong, peter should please correct me.

i think they're doing a darned good job, given that promoting buffalo is a heavier lift than, say promoting seattle, and they're seriously underfunded for the task. remember, this is the cvb whose bid won us the national trust conference over new york, philadelphia, and hartford, cities who had way more staff and money to throw at the task than we did.

Peter Burakowski
Peter Burakowski

Rand,

VBN has 45,997 fans on its Buffalo page and 67,828 on its The 716 page.

We are also active on Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Foursquare, TripAdvisor and our blog.

We work with bloggers from all around the US and Canada.

Thanks,

Peter Burakowski

Visit Buffalo Niagara

Peter Burakowski
Peter Burakowski

Hello Rand,

VBN does have a targeted plan for reaching out to Canadians.

In the last year alone, we've:

Pitched and received multiple large stories in the Toronto Star

Advertised in Canadian newspapers, magazines, radio stations and websites

Attended trade shows for consumers and media

Held a high-profile media and group tour marketplace in Toronto with dozens of local attractions represented

Co-funded new research on Canadian visitors that was just released last week

Begun work on this new airport visitor center (40% of BNIA passengers are Canadian)

Grown our Canadian shopping e-newsletter to more than 10,000 subscribers

Created a shopping package for Canadians to stay longer during the holidays

Please see pages 10 and 11 of our annual report for examples from last year: http://www.visitbuffaloniagara.com/includes/content/docs/media/VisitBuffaloNiagara-ABR-2011.pdf.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact me directly at burakowski@visitbuffaloniagara.com.

Thanks,

Peter Burakowski

Visit Buffalo Niagara

BrianWhite
BrianWhite

We're just limiting it to Canadians? Tell me again how you're a visionary...

Tim
Tim

I'll refrain from the 'duh!' comments. Fact is that people really have no clue that buffalo has anything to offer, and they won't do much research. Having this convenience for those people in the airport is a no brainer. Good luck.

Rand503
Rand503

Here's the funny thing. Most Canadians don't fly through the airport. The drive across the bridges. So this will do very little to actually reach out to them.

Even for the out of towners -- will this booth really steer them forward the cultural activities? If I arrive off a plane, and walk into the booth, and say "I'm here for two nights -- what good theater can I see?" will they be able to list all the productions over the next two nights, prices, ways to get there, and presumed quality of the show?

Or will they just mention that we have a nice theater district, here's a brochure, you figure it out? Unless they have an uptodate calender of what's happening in real time, I doubt it will e much value.

Rand503
Rand503

Exactly. There is a bed tax to promote tourism in Buffalo. That means that Canadians are paying a tax so that we can market to them! That's where the money is and that's where it should go.

There is NO excuse for taking ten years to come up with a visitors center when the money was coming in to do exactly that. The bed tax raised $100,000 many times over, so it isn't a money issue. It's a priority issue, plain and simple.

Rand503
Rand503

Advertising in a newspaper isn't the only way to reach people. There is the new concept called "social media" that works really well at spreading the word. There are things called blogs, and I'm sure Toronto has a few of them.

Snark aside -- promotion is what the VBN should be doing. There are a million ways you can promote an idea without spending a lot of money. It calls for imagination and creativity, but it can be done.

Sattler's at 998 Broadway was famous all over the country for promoting itself on the cheap. You just have to have the right people and energy to do it.

paulsobo
paulsobo

Connect the Light Rail to the Larkin, Central Terminal, Galleria and Airport....and that will help downtown.

Segregate the Hotel Bed Tax to actually market, advertise and restore Buffalo.

Dont make this the last step....

buffloonitick
buffloonitick

Four years ago...

that's slower than molasses going uphill on a winters day.

Perry
Perry

I do have to laugh at the quote that basically says "Four years ago we started this plan, and here is a result of it." It took four years????? No wonder nothing gets done fast here in Buffalo.

To VBN defense - they have been marketing to Canadians for many years...on very limited funds. Paid advertising, media FAM tours, weekend getaways. I'm sure it's pretty darn expensive to buy an ad in Toronto. An advertising budget can suck up a lot of money. Of course, the VBN only gets like 40 percent of the bed tax. Can you imagine, if they actually had the full amount. Everything cost money.

BrianWhite
BrianWhite

I'll refute that sentiment. It is late -- and your response "deal with it" is exactly the problem with WNYers. I don't want to deal with it. I want in the airport 15 years ago. I travel a grotesque amount for my job and I see the things that other cities have going for them, just on their airports alone.

We COULD capitalize on the region, if we ever got out of our own way. Ever been to the airport? Anchor Bar and Labatt’s are good choices to represent the area -- but Mattie's? A restaurant owned by former County Leg Chairman George Holt...gee I wonder how that ended up in the airport? And what the hell is a Which Which? Ever seen one outside of Buffalo? Ever been to the gift shop in the airport? They sell FDNY and NYPD die cast replica cars and trucks. Because, you know -- we're close to Manhattan and that would warrant an impulse purchase like that. Its little things that make the difference, but you wouldn’t know that because you’re busy looking at boarded up house.

The problem is with you, DOC – and other people like you. You don't demand better from your area and when they "surprise" you with something like a visitor center in an airport (Imagine that? What's next, planes?) you get all excited like it’s a good thing. A good thing would be to announce that they are remodeling the VBN booth that's been there since 1980.

galaxyjay
galaxyjay

Does this babble have anything to do with the article?

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

I am so tired of the acceptance of mediocrity in Buffalo. "Be happy that SOMETHING is happening...no matter what it looks like or how long it took." This apathetic way of being needs to end. It's pathetic. It's like the whole city needs to go to bootcamp and/or spend time in a place like NYC, Boston, Austin, San Francisco where people are sitting on their heels, but are seizing opportunity on a moment-to-moment basis.

I agree with Queeneseyes--the VBN should have been there years ago...even if it means they did so without securing $100k from FNFG. I know they don't receive as much funding as their counterparts in comparable cities, but be entrepreneurial, be passionate, take a risk, think outside the box etc. Set up a table at the airport, if need be.

I agree with Rand 100%--there is low hanging fruit right across the border. Go deep!

DOC
DOC

Queeneye. You're a negative malcontent down deep and this story illustrates that. So the Visitor's Center is late. Deal with it. Like so many other projects it's late. Celebrate it then move on. Such negativity. You need to move away for a while and see the acres and acres of abandoned foreclosed, boarded-up homes in some of America's "fastest growing" cities.

Rand503
Rand503

It SHOULD be a slam against the VBN. We've had Canadians coming to the WNY for shopping since at least the late 1970s -- that's over 30 years of people flooding to our stores, and they just now figured out that perhaps we should do something to help them find their way. (We ran a motel in Clarence had have had a steady CAnadian trade since at least then, so I know first hand the economic impact of the Canadian trade).

WNY has also been pushing architecture and cultural tourism since at least the early 90s, and they still have no comprehensive plan to promote that. They keep saying it's coming, and they do publish booklets about it, but they do precious little to actually inform Canadians about it.

Here's an idea: Put ads in Canadian newspapers and links in their websites to a monthly calender of what's going on in Buffalo and surrounding areas. List all the theater, music, art, sports and tour events going on in any given week. Allow local businesses to give discounts and other promotions to the Canadian trade in order to attract them.

This is low hanging fruit -- Canadians are already here! You don't have to convince them to drive or fly to Buffalo. They are already staying in hotels and eating in restaurants. The hard part is done for you. Now, you just have to inform them of all the fun things they can do after their shopping is done, and all the great places to eat other than chain restaurants, and also alert them to shopping areas that they might not know about.

If our theaters could attract just 5% of the Canadian trade, it would fill their seats to capacity. Why, why , why will no one actually step up and do this? It's their job, after all!

Rand503
Rand503

It SHOULD be a slam against the VBN. We've had Canadians coming to the WNY for shopping since at least the late 1970s -- that's over 30 years of people flooding to our stores, and they just now figured out that perhaps we should do something to help them find their way. (We ran a motel in Clarence had have had a steady CAnadian trade since at least then, so I know first hand the economic impact of the Canadian trade).

WNY has also been pushing architecture and cultural tourism since at least the early 90s, and they still have no comprehensive plan to promote that. They keep saying it's coming, and they do publish booklets about it, but they do precious little to actually inform Canadians about it.

Here's an idea: Put ads in Canadian newspapers and links in their websites to a monthly calender of what's going on in Buffalo and surrounding areas. List all the theater, music, art, sports and tour events going on in any given week. Allow local businesses to give discounts and other promotions to the Canadian trade in order to attract them.

This is low hanging fruit -- Canadians are already here! You don't have to convince them to drive or fly to Buffalo. They are already staying in hotels and eating in restaurants. The hard part is done for you. Now, you just have to inform them of all the fun things they can do after their shopping is done, and all the great places to eat other than chain restaurants, and also alert them to shopping areas that they might not know about.

If our theaters could attract just 5% of the Canadian trade, it would fill their seats to capacity. Why, why , why will no one actually step up and do this? It's their job, after all!

BrianWhite
BrianWhite

Does this mean no more art gallery/massage studio?

The Boss
The Boss

The County and State need to step up funding to tourism and understand that it is one of our few growth industries.

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