Tourism Down in Falls as Typical Tourists are Banned From Coming

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By: Frank Parlato

Annually, Niagara Falls State Park is the destination of millions of people from around the nation and the world, who come to see one of the greatest natural wonders of the world.

Most visitors come from late May to early September, and previous State Park estimates have been as high as 8 million annual visitors.

 Nothing like that is happening this year.

 The July 4th holiday, which is traditionally the busiest time of the year for the park and surrounding downtown Niagara Falls, was a ghost of what it has been in the past.  

 Due to the pandemic, 2020 has been a dismal year for tourism. 

 About 33 percent of visitors to the Falls come from Canada. But the border is closed to non-essential travel, locking out hundreds of thousands of tourists.

 Another large segment of tourists are visitors from China, South Korea, India, and Europe, many of them come on buses from New York City. They aren’t coming tnis year.



With the Covid 19, in their own countries and in the USA, foreign tourists, either by law or choice won;t be in the Falls this year.

 On top of that, Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed a 14 day quarantine for anyone coming to New York State from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, Texas, California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee.

Many summertime travelers come from these states, and they are prohibited from simply driving or flying here to come out and see the Falls – unless they are willing to be quarantined for two weeks.

This has killed most plans for USA travelers from these states to make a short visit to the area.

 Essentially, these pandemic-based rules and conditions have limited visitors to the Falls to New York state residents and summer travelers from other states not on the quarantine list, who take short trips, possibly averaging 200 miles or less from their homes.

This means that most of the tourism this year is from locals, and other places in New York, and from Pennsylvania and Ohio.

More than 90% of the license plates at the State Park over the weekend were from New York, with a few from Ohio, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

None were from Canada.


Lines at the Niagara Falls State Park for the Cave of the Winds and Maid of the Mist were seen for the first time all year over the July 4th weekend.


At the Niagara Falls State Park, this July 4th holiday weekend was nothing like past years when traffic jams slowed traffic sometimes for hours and the State Park parking lot was full by 8 am.

This holiday weekend, perhaps for the first time this tourist season, the State Park’s parking lot was full, for a while, but there were no delays, no traffic jams and no overflow crowds at various attractions at the park. 

The Maid of the Mist set sail for the first time during the last week of June [it usually opens in April or May depending on ice conditions] and has social distancing in place. The boat ride operates at 50% capacity which comes out to about 230 people per boat.

 Elevators to the Observation Deck operate at 50 percent capacity.  

The Cave of the Winds, Rainbow Air Helicopter Tours, and Whirlpool Jet Boats opened for the first time this year during the first week of July.  They normally open in May.


Lines at the Niagara Falls State Park for the Cave of the Winds and Maid of the Mist were seen for the first time all year over the July 4th weekend.


There were lines for attractions for the Cave of the Winds and Maid of the Mist this weekend. Both attractions sold out on Saturday, July 4th, and Sunday, July 5th.

However, in the past on July 4, thousands were turned away and the wait time for the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds was from two to four hours.

Not this year. 

Hotel occupancy rates are better than they have been during the pandemic and some tourist destinations were rehiring, but it is nothing like the past when on any given night during July, all 3000 hotel rooms in the Falls would be filled and thousands of seasonal workers would be employed at restaurants, bars, hotels, gift shops and other tourist oriented businesses.

This is not the case this year.

Our estimate, based mainly on observing parking lots and wait times, leads us to conclude that tourism is down more than 50 percent this year.

This appears to be the lost tourist season. 

It is a short season as it is in the Falls and there seems to be little hope it can be salvaged before summer ends.  

Most in the industry are likely pinning their hopes on summer 2021.


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