NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) - Niagara University's Global Tourism Institute will include building space in downtown Niagara Falls and dedicated research efforts that seek new tourism opportunities, university officials said this week.
It will aim to attract international students interested in studying tourism and also establish partnerships with other educational entities and businesses.
NU officials say it amounts to a signature initiative that will capitalize on the university's programmatic and regional position in the tourism industry.
"We see this as playing a very critical role in the transformation of the tourism industry so that at last we get the most of it in Western New York," said Bonnie Rose, NU executive vice president.
The project has been in planning stages for more than a year and will include another year of planning based on a study by prominent Canadian consultant Millier Dickinson Blais, which was commissioned by USA Niagara Development Corp. and NU.
Around this time next year, the GTI will enter full-fledged operation under the direction of NU expert-in-residence Eddie Friehl, whose innovative work has been credited with helping the resurgence of Glasgow, Scotland.
The Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board voted to recommend $250,000 for the institute Tuesday - nearly reaching the $286,200 NU has requested. In all, the project's first phase will cost $415,152, according to the university's application for the allocation. In-kind services from NU account for $128,952 of that amount.
Rose detailed the GTI's multi-dimensional plan this week, saying NU has yet to identify the downtown Niagara Falls space where it will site the institute. That space will include a business incubator anchored by a tenant in the high-tech arena to support innovative research on how technology can boost tourism. It will include computer labs, classrooms and collaborative spaces. Eventually, it may host virtual holographic space that can be found in tourism hot spots around the world.
Meanwhile, a major component of the institute will be research. The first project will seek to quantify Western New York's tourism assets so they can be better utilized, and future studies could touch on market research, data warehousing and environmental scanning.
The institute's physical space and the research will have a focus on innovation, Rose said.
"This institute will take a focus not just on tourism destination development but on the technologies that can be innovative enablers for that," Rose said. "It's as much about apps as it is about ads."
The institute will be run out of NU's Office of Academic Affairs, but will also coordinate with recently hired Hung Le, VP of international affairs, to attract students from around the world who want to study tourism and hospitality.
NU is currently establishing an advisory panel made up of officials and residents to advise on the details of the project. It has already worked with stakeholders from the local wine, hospitality and sports industries. Hopes are high that the end-result is transformative for the city and the university.
"We really wanted to ask ourselves, what is it this industry needs from Niagara University, and how can Niagara University contribute to the redevelopment of downtown Niagara Falls?" Rose said.