In 2009, I worked my first tourist season at Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises. LLECC was founded by Michael Murphy and his wife Sharon in 1988 with a pontoon boat. The duo remain in charge today and operate a two boat fleet consisting of a former whale watching boat (150 passengers) and a the Mystic, CT water taxi (50 passenger) which appeared in the movie 1988 movie “Mystic Pizza.”
Every day there are foreign tourists going out on one or more of the cruises. Based on questions I’ve fielded from tourists on board they have come from Poland, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, Mexico, Turkey, Canada, and India. The makeup surprised me because in my mind I would have expected to see numbers from England, France and Germany.
The Indians dominate. I would say there has been someone from India or of East Indian ancestry on the 2 or 3 cruises pm which I work each day I am scheduled. The largest group could very well have been the 18 people from one family consisting of grandchildren up to grandparents. It is rapidly become a well known fact that East Indian tourists are becoming the dominant group of overseas vacationers to visit the Niagara Region.
I tried finding information regarding the number of Indian visitors that typically see the Falls and the region. A daunting task as no-one seems to know. All local tourism and business development officials know is that there are a lot and they point to the number of Indian restaurants opening near the Falls. So much for investing in on professional marketing research.
I got on line and did the now famously called “Google.” I was led to an airport development site called “The Route Shop” I found out that the annual Toronto, Canada to New Delhi, India market is 151,000 passengers and is currently served by Air India. That is a rather huge number when you consider that Buffalo, Niagara Falls is the 20th largest USA destination for international tourists with 335,000 visitors. The area is just behind Anaheim with its Disneyland, Dallas with its big money and constant media exposure and ahead of Tampa with its beaches and its sunshine/weather bravado.
I see two opportunities here. One is to attract an Indian airline other than Air India to service Niagara Falls International Airport. – Jet Airways currently has a presence in Brussels, Belgium. That can be done either with a non-stop flight or working with a city partner. One of which could be Manchester , England which currently has 54,000 annual passengers to New Delhi but not direct air service. Maybe a New Delhi-Manchester-Niagara Falls route works if only for an initial tourist season schedule. A partner route also opens up Niagara Falls to travelers originating in Northern or Midlands England while giving us access to them.
The option would be to find out which Indian based travel agencies are directing their customers to the Falls region and work with them. Maybe it is possible to have trips become multi-night rather than quick travel through.
I hope that someone is investing a larger Niagara Region-India connection. If you happen to know of someone who is attempting this please let me know.