Tourism is tourism and colleges are colleges. Niagara University is arguing its Niagara Global Tourism Institute melds the two and it's good for the community the college lives in.
Niagara has had its College of Hospitality and Tourism Management since 1968. For the last five years, it has also had the Niagara Global Tourism Institute, which works collaborations between the public and the private sector in Niagara Falls, a city where the two are inextricably linked. State parks provide the beauty of the Falls and the private sector feeds, clothes and puts t-shirts and hats on the visitors.
Global Tourism Director Patrick Whalen posits some programs are short-term and others are longer term. He said the first project was to persuade visitors to stay longer.
"We started a program called 'Stay Another Night' and we did workforce training with the front desk clerks and we gave them sales skills so that they could ask visitors as they checked in if they could be interested in staying another night by going to, say, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery or skating at Canalside, the Darwin Martin House or the Teddy Roosevelt site," Whalen said.
Whalen said a longer-term goal is to get enough of those longer visits that more hospitality workers can work year-round and potentially develop a career with promotion potential.
"Five, six, seven, 8,000 people in the City of Niagara Falls that are out of work and not even looking that could fill those jobs," he said. "They don't want to and I don't blame them because no one wants to take a job in May in an entry-level position and get laid off in October and then come back the next May and get the same entry-level job and come back the next May and get the same entry-level job. It's like 'Groundhog Day' all over again."
He said there are also tech projects, like free WiFi around the Falls and using that system to find out how many countries visitors are from. At recent count, WiFi users say they came from 145 countries.
According to WiFi users, the top outside nation sending visitors is India. For Whalen, that's interesting because just across the Niagara Gorge, the top source of tourists in Niagara Falls, ON is China, while China is eighth on the New York side.
The hospitality college is also holding more of its classes in the center of Niagara Falls and the rebuilt Hotel Niagara will have actual classrooms.