Tourism promotion efforts in Niagara Falls and the surrounding region will soon be getting a boost from the federal government.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced Monday during a press conference in Youngstown a decision by the federally funded, non-profit group, Brand USA, to include the Greater Niagara Region in its future efforts to attract international travelers.

Gillibrand said Brand USA will promote the Greater Niagara Region as an international travel destination, featuring the Falls region as a “Trip Idea” on the New York state page of its Discover America website.

Brand USA was created in 2009 to lead a promotional campaign aimed at drawing more international travelers to destinations in America. Gillibrand said the addition of the Greater Niagara Region will put the Falls, Buffalo and other local points of interest at the forefront of that effort.

“The Greater Niagara Region is a do-not-miss for international travelers coming to the U.S.,” Gillibrand said. “This new attention by Brand USA will only enhance the work we’ve done as a community to make Niagara an international travel destination. Niagara County is a family friendly destination with iconic natural and cultural landmarks that people of all ages can enjoy. An increase in international visitors to Niagara would increase our export growth, facilitating job creation in the region.”

In April, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote to officials at Brand USA, pointing out to them that key Western New York destinations, including Niagara Falls itself, were left off of the group’s federally funded promotional materials. On Monday, Schumer applauded Brand USA’s decision to include the Falls and other “Western New York gems” on its Discover America New York state page.

“Today’s news means that the Niagara region should expect boatloads of extra visitors at this natural wonder, and premier Western New York tourist destinations will also receive increased attention and visitors,” Schumer said.

According to Gillibrand’s office, the Niagara Region ranks in the top 20 destinations for overseas travelers, making tourism and the service-export industry a prime economic engine in the area. Last year, her office said visitors spent roughly $491 million on travel expenses in Niagara County.

Mayor Paul Dyster called the added promotional support from Brand USA “good news” for the city and surrounding area.

“We do some of this already but we have a very limited budget,” he said. “This puts us on the A-list to be promoted.”

John Percy, president and CEO of the county’s lead tourism agency, the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., said Brand USA highlighting the assets of the area will strengthen the local tourism industry, making it more of an economic driver for the region.

“This initiative will increase our visibility in front of a global audience and attract additional visitors, and therefore more overnight guests and business for our area stakeholders,” Percy said.

(c)2013 the Niagara Gazette (Niagara Falls, N.Y.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Photo Credit: People get soaked on the Whirlpool Jet Boat tour ride and it travels through the Niagara River Gorge on the Niagara River. NiagaraFallsUSA1 / Flickr