An online search for overnight accommodations in Western New York this summer may result in a somewhat surprising result: Niagara University.
The Lewiston-based institution has made available three apartment units through Airbnb
from June 5 through July 28. A four-bedroom apartment, which features four single beds, a full kitchen with cookware and dishes, two bathrooms, and a living room area with a cable television, is listed for $129 per night.
Along with serving as a potential revenue generator for Niagara during a time when most students have returned home, the new venture is also helping undergraduates enrolled in the university's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management
gain experience running a small business.
Rising NU seniors Morgan Mathews, Ryan Mathews and Heather Cirrito are participating in an Airbnb operations course that offers them an opportunity to administer the business. With supervision from the university's Center for Conferences and Events
staff, Mathews, Mathews and Cirrito are responsible for room preparation, check-in and checkout processes, and concierge services, which makes for a comprehensive experiential learning opportunity.
Ryan Mathews noted almost all of the guests so far said seeing Niagara Falls is at the top of their to-do list.
"I have realized how much of a spectacle Niagara Falls is to the rest of the world and it makes for a great tourist destination," said the computer and information sciences major from Gasport. "Our guests have come from all over the country, and soon we will have our first visitor from outside the country (Australia). I have learned that great customer service and time management are key to running an Airbnb."
Cirrito, a tourism and recreation management major, said, "I've learned that communication is key in order to maintain a reputable and accommodating Airbnb that upholds the image of Niagara University. Being informative about their stay is necessary for us to achieve the goal that the guest is over-satisfied with their experience here on campus."
As of June 14, 20 reservations for 35 room nights had been booked.
Ryan's sister, Morgan, is studying hotel and restaurant management at NU, with a focus on luxury hospitality operations. She said the students have already fielded many inquiries from prospective guests, which range from which local attractions and restaurants to visit to basic Airbnb questions.
"So far the responses from guests have been positive," she said. "Our first guest to check in was a Niagara University alumnus. He lived in the apartments during his senior year and he was excited to stay in them again!"
To learn more, contact Niagara University's Center for Conferences and Events at 716-286-8705.