A new lodging option opens next week in North Conway. But instead of booking summer vacationers, owner George Wu says he’s marketing to a different group: International Student Workers.
Wu graduated from UNH with a hospitality degree in 2006. Now he owns vacation rentals in Carroll County. But during the busy seasons, he found he was often turning away international students who come to the U.S. to work and travel on what are called J-1 visas.
“The lightbulb went off and I was actually like ‘Oh, I should start converting some of my units into student housing,’” says Wu.
So, Wu turned a bright-yellow strip of rooms that used to be the Maple Leaf Motel right off White Mountain Highway into the Work and Travel Lodge. Here Wu hopes he can attract students from Europe, South America and all around the world. When students aren’t working at local restaurants, hotels and retail shops, Wu says he’ll offer hiking, tubing and kayak trips. But is the international student market big enough?
“We’ll have to find out,” Wu says. “It’s a very limited clientele.”
According to the State Department, last summer saw a peak of about 250 work travel participants in North Conway.