Does the city of Niagara Falls, which already pays an outside agency around $2 million a year to promote tourism, need to create a new governmental position to promote tourism?
And does it need the Tourism Advisory Board, a group of well-meaning and politically connected amateurs put together by Mayor Paul Dyster, to ponder ways to increase and better serve the 9 million tourists who visit the city annually?
Shawn Weber, who serves on the Tourism Advisory Board, has his doubts. Last week, he and other board members threatened to dissolve the organization.
The board’s main recommendation to the city Council has been to create a tourism director position within city government.
“We’ve really accomplished nothing, every two weeks for the past two years we’ve been meeting and pushing and pushing with re-ally no result,” said Weber.
Board member Jeffery Flach agreed.
“We don’t have authority within the city government to go say, Mr. Economic Director we need this to happen, DPW we need that to happen,” he said.
Actually, the city doesn’t have an economic director.
“Once the people come here there needs to be an infrastructure here that handles all these situations that come up related to the tourism industry,” added Weber.
Currently, the promotion of tourism in the city is handled by the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., a quasi-public not for profit agency headed by John Percy. The NTCC gets around $2 million a year from bed tax money charged to hotel guests and a share of revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino slot machine take the city receives each year.
Percy and his NTCC have been a lightning rod for criticism in re-cent years due to a perceived lack of accountability and lavish expenses.
City Councilman Kenny Tompkins thinks the NTCC should fund the city position, if it is created.
“Niagara Falls doesn’t have a lot of money at this point in time, so a very good compromise would be NTCC funding this,” said Tompkins.
Tompkins says the council has been talking to the NTCC about creating a three-year pilot position funded by the agency, which currently boasts a $3 million surplus.
“We can try this position see how it works and if it works out well look into making it a full time city job,” he said.
Not so fast, said NTCC officials.
“We haven’t closed the door on anything,” said NTCC communications manager Andrea Czopp. “We just want to have the best and most accurate information on what this position would look like how this position should look and feel and where this position should be housed before we make any final decisions.”
Who knew the NTCC had a communications manager?
If Weber is correct in saying that the Tourism Advisory Board has met every other week for the past two years – 52 meetings in all – and accomplished absolutely nothing, the board might do well to disband.
John Percy, who keeps around $120,000 of the NTCC’s $2 million annual budget for himself, has been tight lipped.
But the question remains. Would one tourist not visit the Falls if Percy and his organization did not exist?