Community News

Tourism hopes of Allegany County pinned on Canadian visitors

By Kathleen Kellogg, Special to the Olean Times Herald February 17, 2018

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BELMONT — Allegany County’s officials are backing a promotion to draw Canadian visitors south to “unique, affordable and undeniably fun” adventures in New York state.

The effort uses talk radio, traditional media and the internet to reach potential visitors, and is fueled by I Love New York and county funding. The “Cross Border Showcase” provides an open door to an estimated 9 million Canadian visitors who live within 90 minutes of three border crossings and have the money and documents to travel to the U.S. About 1 million cars cross each month.

“Tourism is misunderstood, but it’s important to Allegany County,” said Gretchen Hanchett, executive director of Greater Allegany County’s Tourism Office.

She spoke to a group of media representatives and public officials who attended Friday morning’s press conference at the Crossroads Center at the Belmont exit of I-86. She said there has been a 4.6 percent increase in Canadian visitors to U.S. destinations as the overall number of international visitors have declined. She said each dollar spent on tourism returns $450 to Allegany County.

Bob Scott, an Archer Communications advertising consultant who will work with Allegany County on an April-July 2018 promotion of summer travel and fall shopping, told the audience that one-third of the Canadian population and 65 percent of the country’s gross national product originates within driving distance of the area.

Canadians are attracted by New York’s cheaper gasoline prices and sales tax, he continued. If they can drive here in the time it takes to watch a movie, they will avoid security issues of flying longer distances, while connecting with new adventures.

They also like outdoor activities, skiing, golf, fishing, hunting and scenic parks that they discover “at the bottom of a funnel” as they travel to places like Corning Glass, Letchworth Park and beyond, he said.

“They bring money. It’s up to us to attract them,” he said, urging Allegany County to extend and invitation to the Canadians, and predicting they will return for multiple visits and maybe buy a second home.

Scott and his colleagues reach about 10,000 listeners over what he called a “one-hour infomercial,” the Sunday morning Cross Border Showcase radio talk show broadcast on AM-900 CHML. Travelers and tourism professionals are interviewed about fun attractions in nearby New York, and aired from 9 to 10 a.m. in the Hamilton, Ontario area. Other media outlets also bring the message across Southern Ontario through the Toronto Star and its media group.

Hanchett said Allegany County receives $62,000 in state funding for tourism promotions and the county adds another $20,000 for its festivals. “We are crafty. It’s our out-of-the-box approach that makes us look different. Those are the things that make us look different,” she said.

The promotion matches Allegany and Wyoming Counties with communities like Rochester, the Finger Lakes, the Genesee River basin, and the Chautauqua-Allegany and Erie-Niagara Regions, and beyond.