Take detour for welcome
On Friday, New York state celebrated the opening of the Western New York Welcome Center. But just because it has been built does not mean tourists will come.
Located in the town of Grand Island and between the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, the Western New York Welcome Center is accessible from the Niagara Thruway — or Interstate 190 — at exit 19 Whitehaven Road via Alvin Road. Approximately 23.7 million motorists travel past this location each year.
In other words, you have to get off the highway to get to the site. That, in itself, has the potential of hindering attendance.
But our big beef is the location itself. Why is it located off the mainline Thruway?
“This investment in the new Western New York Welcome Center will attract new and returning visitors and continue to bolster the region’s economy by promoting destinations, attractions, and special events across Western New York,” state Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at the opening.
For years, Chautauqua County officials pushed for a Welcome Center near the New York state-Pennsylvania line in Ripley on Interstate 90. Those requests fell on deaf ears.
Instead, the center was located in Grand Island. That is inconvenient — and unwelcoming — for travelers.