NIAGARA UNIVERSITY — A new research grant will allow a Niagara University senior to determine why Niagara Falls may lag behind comparable stateside tourist destinations when it comes to eradicating poverty and growing its tourism economy.
As the first recipient of the Peggy & John Day Honors Thesis Travel Grant, Adam Stumpf will travel to Asheville, N.C.; Newport, R.I.; Key West, Fla.; Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Williamsburg, Va., to collect qualitative data. Stumpf used a set of characteristics that include population, visitor numbers and visitor expenditures to surmise that those five destinations "prosper to a greater extent than Niagara Falls while making use of comparable resources."
Stumpf plans to connect with various stakeholders at each destination this summer to analyze their interactions with each other. Ultimately, he hopes to present a method in which Niagara Falls and other American tourist hotspots can learn from destinations that share similar characteristics pertaining to infrastructure and resources.
"Each of these destinations bodes several natural and historic attractions that draw in visitors," said Stumpf, a tourism destination management major from Cheektowaga who secured the grant through his participation in NU's Honors program. "This historic and natural tourism foundation allows for other novelty attractions to spring up at each destination. These attractions are just as important to maintaining and growing the tourism economy. I will venture into the foundational and novelty attractions at each of these destinations, and offer insight into how and what Niagara Falls can improve as a destination."
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation estimates that more than 8 million people visit Niagara Falls each year. Assessments are made based on a number of factors, including vehicle use (parking), Discovery Pass sales, admissions at the Cave of the Winds and Maid of the Mist attractions, and special event attendance.
The tourism industry in Niagara Falls and Niagara County generates an estimated $608 million annually by Destination Niagara USA (formerly the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation) and accounts for about 20 percent of the county's workforce.
Still, Stumpf contends, the city neighboring Niagara University may have untapped potential. He pointed to the 17.6 percent poverty rate in Niagara Falls, compared to 10.8 percent statewide. He also noted that the city's median household income of $31,452 was below the $37,607 median for all cities and the state median of $55,603, according to a recent fiscal report from the Office of the New York State Comptroller.
Motivated by Niagara's Catholic and Vincentian mission, and assisted by the university's resourceful faculty members, Stumpf said he intends to play at least a small role in contributing to the revitalization of Niagara Falls.
"The work of my professors has inspired me and shown me what it takes to create change," Stumpf said. "I want to leverage the extraordinary generosity of the Day family to produce something that is relevant to Niagara University, something that the school has a vested interest in. Focusing on Niagara Falls opens the door to utilizing the many contacts in the tourism industry that my advisors and I have accumulated over the last few years."
The Peggy & John Day Honors Thesis Travel Grant is part of a larger, generous gift to the university made by the Day family, with the purpose of expanding honors-level education. With this gift, the NU Honors program is able to extend its mission of providing a unique opportunity for students to conduct cutting-edge research during their undergraduate years.
For more information on Niagara University's Honors program visit www.niagara.edu/honors. To learn more about Niagara University's programs in hospitality and tourism management, call 716-286-8279 or visit www.niagara.edu/hospitality.