While our community has seen Niagara businesses struggle, adapt and pivot many times in recent years, one question dominates conversations with owners and staff alike: What can we expect in 2023?
With your help, hundreds of restaurants continued to have an engaged audience during tough times and Niagarans have really put their full weight behind #supportlocal when it was most needed.
When we look back, 2022 was yet another year filled with adjusting to new realities of closures, openings, and staff shortages. With the main tourism season ahead of us in one of the world’s most popular destinations, we wanted to know what we should expect:
April Brunet – Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Lais Hotel Properties Ltd in Niagara-on-the-Lake, says that “the first quarter of the fiscal year has some softer periods in the leisure sector, no doubt from messaging in the news around recession, rising costs for households and some shifts back to traveling to southern destinations.”
“However, we remain cautiously optimistic overall. It’s wonderful to see the small meetings market returning consistently, and the weddings market remain strong this year. Overall, we anticipate a year of stabilization”, Brunet adds.
The economy and news around it are definitely something that’s on everybody’s mind, but there were also other factors slowing the return of big numbers of tourists in 2022 that we will not have to worry about this year.
“I’m expecting great things! In 2022 domestic tourism largely returned to pre-pandemic numbers, while international visitation lagged behind at half, because of the still existing ArriveCan app at that time. Now that it’s been removed, I expect international visitation to approach pre-pandemic numbers, and snap back like a rubber band! With the favourable exchange rate, American visitor travel to Canada should get a boost!” says Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati.
It seems that to date the region’s biggest driver for visitor numbers still are and will remain the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas.
At Niagara Falls’ Greg Frewin theatre, which caters to a lot of groups along with individual visitors, Alanna Frewin says they are still seeing most of their visitors arriving from Toronto and southern Ontario. “There seems to be a slow return of our US visitors, however, this is still very small. Our tour bus and group market is getting back into the swing of things and by fall should be laying the ground work for redeveloping these markets to their more robust fullness of previous years”, Frewin adds.
While it is widely expected that the Ontario tourism sector won’t fully recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2025, the Niagara region is not just sitting back and waiting until the tides turn in our favour. There are a lot of new things to discover for visitors and locals alike.
Mayor Jim Diodati points out that “the new Niagara Parks Power Station is definitely going to be a new highlight. That, along with the OLG Stage will be two huge new offerings for our guests and will keep people wanting more. The exciting thing is that there’s always something new to come and explore here!”
At Greg Frewin Vegas-style theatre a new show at night is complimented by a show during the day that is familiar to most people who have ever visited the Falls: “We have developed a new show staring Christian Mascia who is a very talented magician Greg has been mentoring. We’ve also partnered with Niagara Adventure Theatre (formerly IMAX) who is presenting their Niagara Falls adventure movie in our theatre during the day”, says Alanna Frewin.
If you are looking to escape to Niagara Wine Country and spending some time in the Old Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, you’ll definitely want to take a stroll through the newest addition to the Vintage Hotel (VH) properties: “The Gardens [located across from the Pillar & Post] is a great example of how VH embraced adopting new experiences. The Gardens and the Ice Rink provide our guests a full season of options to enjoy while visiting. We’ve created signature events and packaging that enable our guests to enjoy the great outdoors while savouring unique offerings from our culinary team and wine partners within the community”, states April Brunet.
Experience driven tourism is a very strong trend for travellers these days and Niagara is well positioned to get us back to where we need to be. As Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodiati puts it: “People love experiential tourism and one of a kind unique experiences. They love to eat and drink where the locals eat and drink. […] I think local restaurants should keep their focus on what they do best, their unique offerings. Our local establishments put their heart and soul into their food and service offerings. That’s what elevates a really special place and puts it on the map.”
“A location’s reputation is its secret sales agent that never sleeps. We have so many of these unique and special locations in our community just waiting for the curious traveler to discover!”
Mr. Mayor, we could not agree more! We are excited about the opportunities that this season holds and for the path forward to an even stronger Niagara as a “have to visit” destination.
Make sure to check out all the great restaurants, wineries, and more on WhenInNiagara.com and create your itinerary for your next exciting visit.