In a Buffalo News essay published Oct. 5, 2014, Father Maher explained how the establishment of the Niagara Global Tourism Institute will bolster the tourism and hospitality industry in the Buffalo-Niagara region.
With the recent launch of the Niagara Global Tourism Institute (NGTI), we marked a major investment in the future of the Niagara Falls region, an area that is possibly the country’s oldest established tourist attraction, but one that has sought to reclaim its former status after four decades of economic decline.
We are grateful to the New York Power Authority Proceeds Board for its support of this endeavor and to the City of Niagara Falls and Empire State Development Corp., via USA Niagara, for being early partners. All are contributors to an effort that will help the tourism industry achieve its full potential as a driver of the future economy of Western New York.
Niagara University’s mission in this – and all its efforts – is dictated by the founder of our Vincentian Community, St. Vincent de Paul, who lived his life in service to the less fortunate. His example is at the heart of our responsibility as an institution to invest in the community of our founding in 1856. We recognize that poverty is about more than economics, that helping others is a social and moral imperative. We firmly believe that this initiative can play a critical role in putting so many of our fellow citizens back to work in positions with prospects for advancement.
With our internationally known College of Hospitality and Tourism Management and as the first college in the nation to offer a bachelor of tourism, we are well-poised to spearhead this action, which will work in concert with other programs, like our partnership with the Hospitality Academy at Niagara Catholic High School, a newly launched social entrepreneurship program for students, and our work with organizations and businesses across the region.
The NGTI will redefine Niagara Falls with four major components:
- Tourism research – data-driven investigation of the needs of the area and the tourist sector in general.
- Technological innovation – introduction of the newest and most-valued digital and interactive technologies to help visitors plan and make the most of their visits).
- Workforce training and development – identifying tourism workforce needs and skills development.
- Tourism business incubation.
Edward Friel, a Niagara University professor and respected tourism consultant who is credited with steering the transformation of Glasgow, Scotland, will lead the NGTI. One of his primary goals will be to help convert Niagara Falls from an “attraction” to a “destination” for national and international visitors.
As he has stated, research shows that 8 million people visit Niagara Falls each year, but stay an average of only five hours. The NGTI will create an infrastructure to spur visitors to remain and enjoy additional attractions and amenities. If we can induce 10 percent of these 8 million people to expand their visit by just one night, we will create 5,700 jobs in five years.
Tourism today is a high-tech industry that has been identified as the fastest growing in the world. It is the source of incredible, well-paying careers that provide people with vast opportunity for growth and is especially important to those with limited education and training.
We have an amazing opportunity in Western New York to help thousands of people, to turn the region around. The NGTI has the power to be a transformative force and we’re delighted to be leaders in that effort.