Update on the State of the art “Welcome Center”

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Grand Island has been selected as the location for a planned NEW state of the art “Welcome Center” that will be located just off the thruway.  According to Grand Island Supervisor Nate McMurray. the welcome center will not be a tourist trap or merely a rest stop. It will purportedly feature a Taste NY Market offering locally-made and produced food and beverages and three interactive I LOVE NEW YORK digital kiosks for visitors to learn about the region’s history,
Grand Island’s history, and the myriad of destinations WNY has to offer.
What is not as yet known is whether it will feature bus tour salespeople who will pitch tours to tourists coming into the region, as is the model at the Welcome Center off the Route 90 thruway at the Angola rest stop.
There, Grey Line Bus Tours man the information booths and their main task is not to provide information, but sell tours for Grey Line that take tourists on a guided bus tour of various places of interest in Niagara Falls.
The Niagara Tourism and Convention Center’s information center on Rainbow Blvd does the same thing as do a number of hotels and private businesses including One Niagara.
The major difference is that when private business does it, they are not using taxpayer money or claiming they are official government-sanctioned information centers for information seeking travelers.
McMurray says the upcoming State-sponsored information center on Grand Island will not be a tourist trap.
If bus tours – and some of them are excellent – like Grey Line and Robert Nicolas’ Over the Falls – become the real and most significant reason for having an off-thruway information center – then the kiosks and food offerings are merely window dressing for the super lucrative tour sales which, at a spot like Grand Island, could amount to $2 million or more per year.
This is not to suggest that taking a scenic bus tour is not a good choice for many tourists, but that a state-run information center should not be the front for a bus tours sales center where the state will choose a favored bus company and give it a monopoly to sell to tourists, who are often misled about other options at the Falls since the profits are so lucrative for bus tours..
It’s not the tours themselves – which can be the best way to experience the falls for many – but the government converting info centers into bus tours sales centers to the exclusion of other tourism opportunities.
We will soon enough see if Grand Island is different from Angola or the NTCC.

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