Where have all the people gone?
On Tuesday, I paid a visit to the number one tourism destination in Canada – Niagara Falls, Ontario. And what I observed was absolutely shocking and surreal – a once bustling town that now seemingly resembles a set piece lifted from The Walking Dead.
The major streets, such as Victoria Avenue and Falls Avenue, were virtually empty of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. And at the carnival-like Clifton Hill – a site usually teeming with tourists – a vacuum had taken lease. The wax museums and haunted houses and arcades and mini-golf courses were locked down; the giant Niagara SkyWheel was completely immobile. It was jaw-dropping, to be sure, given that in any given year Niagara Falls can attract some 30 million visitors.
Even strolling down to gaze upon the magnificent and majestic enormous waterfalls, I only spotted a random pedestrian here and there; the throngs of tourists from the world over were on this day AWOL at the Honeymoon Capital of the World.
I wondered what the late Pierre Berton would say? In his superb 1992 book, Niagara: A History of the Falls, Berton points out that for centuries, entrepreneurs – often of dodgy backgrounds – were attracted to the Falls like so many ants to an open jam jar.
Given the Falls' tourism drawing power, there was always a buck or three to be made in these parts – quite often via dubious methods. Indeed, this tourist trap, wrote Berton, has always served as a beacon to “heroes and villains, eccentrics and daredevils, scientists and power brokers, artists and charlatans.” Selling the natural wonder that is the Falls always meant there were fortunes to be made in these parts.
But not now.
Not with the world trying to flatten the deadly curve of the Coronavirus…