It’s peak season in Niagara Falls as more locals and tourists take advantage of the great weather to visit one of the world’s natural wonders and its surrounding attractions.
Tour operator, Eileen Tinio Hind, is glad that business is getting busier but her tour bookings are still lagging due to some challenges faced by American and international travelers.
"2020 would’ve been the best year ever in the region. This year, it just started to get back but it still isn’t back to the way it was in 2019. American travelers are having a hard time again because of the requirements that when they come in here being fully vaccinated, they have to complete the ArriveCan app. A lot of the flights are being canceled in Europe so we lost quite a few of them, plus airfare has gone up as well. At this point, it’s a lot of local tourism or domestic tourism," she said.
Meanwhile, walking distance from the bustling hotels and amusement area is the only Filipino store and restaurant in Niagara Falls. J&B Filipino-Asian Store started as a furniture liquidation service in 2017 and was changed to a Filipino store in response to the increasing demand by local residents for Filipino products and hot Pinoy food. It is now getting discovered by more and more Filipino visitors and other tourists.
"Every time they’re looking for some Filipino store in the area, they only research through Google and they [see] right away our business name na 'ah, may Filipino!' and they were excited even though mga turista. We are just trying to entertain our customers so that maging feel at home sila rito," store co-owner Beth Wright shared.
Her co-owner John Wright for his part noted," they like the fact that it’s small and it’s cozy. They can come in and just relax."
Behind the flurry of activity at the casinos as well are hundreds of Filipino workers who moved to Niagara for better opportunities, just like Dexter Ibarra who's happy to see the increasing Filipino representation at work.
"It’s more tranquil [in Niagara Falls]. Life is just easier. There’s more time for yourself and for your family. There’s a huge Filipino representation in all levels of employment at the casino. I’m very happy to see them come from other cities, and even from the Philippines themselves. They come here for the opportunity for employment and it’s increased every year ever since. I’m pretty sure we’ve got about close to 500 employees that are of Filipino descent," Ibarra said.
Many Filipino families who have recently moved to the Niagara region are also finding that their new home offers the complete package and work-life balance they're looking for.
"You’re just so close with nature but you’re not really that far from city life. So, It’s like having a vacation everyday," Darlene Fetalvero, a new resident at St. Catharines, said.
To the delight of the growing Filipino community, some big events took place in July including the first Filipino concert at the Niagara Falls Convention Centre, which featured singer Marcelito Pomoy.
The 2016 census shows that there are close to 180,000 Filipinos living in Niagara.