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Niagara Falls says 'no' to world publicity contest

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - Niagara Falls will not be among the "New 7 Wonders of Nature."

It's not even a finalist in the global polling under way to choose them.

Tourism officials on the U.S. side of the Falls said they passed on the opportunity because of worries their cash-strapped community might be on the hook for costly promotional activities.

Swiss organizers of the contest announced the 28 finalists Tuesday. Among them are the Grand Canyon, Amazon rain forest, Dead Sea and Ecuador's Galapagos Islands. People can vote for the final seven by Internet or phone and the winners will be announced in 2011.

Canadian tourism officials had formed the required supporting committee to make Niagara Falls eligible for the poll by the nonprofit New 7 Wonders organization, but without American support the bi-national attraction was taken out of the running.

"There was a great deal of concern that the resources that were being asked, and not in a very direct manner, would be more than our challenged economy could bear," said Kate Scaglione, spokeswoman for the Niagara Tourism and Convention Center.

"It's not made quite clear, if you're selected, what you're going to be required to do," said Scaglione, who said the decision not to participate was made in consultation with Mayor Paul Dyster's office. The top seven winners are required to participate in a documentary, world tour and other events, she said.

Reached Tuesday in Zurich, a spokeswoman for New 7 Wonders said the financial concerns were unfounded. The only upfront cost is an administrative fee of $199, Tia Viering said, and sponsors pay any other expenses.

"If we are going to do a world tour, which is in the plan, and visit each of the 28 finalists, yes we would expect part of the cost to be covered, and that is easily done usually with sponsors," Viering said. "We get lots of calls, companies interested in a place to support their local nominee. This is kind of a no-brainer. Every single site out there is marketing itself anyway."

She said New 7 Wonders' research has found that participating in one of its campaigns, like one that determined the seven manmade wonders in 2007, can generate about $5 billion in tourism revenue for the sites themselves.

The idea, according to the organization, is to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving and restoring monuments and natural sites.

"Global awareness rises so much that it's almost unquantifiable," Viering said, adding the program is "trying to reach people who may be not aware of whether it's Niagara Falls or Halong Bay (Vietnam) or the Masurian Lake District in Poland. We're trying to expand people's horizons."

John Percy, who leads the Niagara Falls tourism bureau, said Niagara Falls doesn't need a poll to get attention as a natural wonder.

"We have a brand that stands out on its own," he said.

Victor Ferraiuolo, interim administrator of Niagara Falls Tourism in Ontario, said he was fine with the U.S. decision to pass on the polling. Although Canada took steps to participate, there was no pressure to get the U.S. to do the same, he said.

"We've had decades of visitors come to the area and spread (by) word-of-mouth the kind of experience they've had here," he said.

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