March 13, 2009

C.U. Sights Appeal to Tourists

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With its sweeping hills and unique architecture, Cornell offers a great deal of beauty for its students. But is that beauty enough to turn Cornell into a tourist destination? In The New York Times Travel Section from Mar. 1, Jane Margolies praised the Ithaca campus as one of five campuses that “have become popular tourist draws for their cultural offerings.”
Ithaca, as the urban capital of the Finger Lakes, is a common stop on journeys to the various vineyards and other local attractions for New York City residents, according to The Times. Cornell, as the largest attraction in the city, draws a large number of those visitors.
“Cornell University does not market itself as a tourist destination, but I can tell you that there are many groups who treat it as such.” said Taiya Luce, the deputy director of Campus Information and Visitor Relations. “We’re happy to have non-prospectives visit the campus. You definitely do not need to be a student in order to learn something or have a meaningful experience at Cornell. “
Between April and November, the Office of Campus Information offers tours of the campus four times a day on weekdays, as well as three tours on Saturday and one on Sunday.
“We offer the general campus tour for prospective students, and also a Freshmen Experience Tour that tours the North Campus Residential area specifically,” Luce said. “As for people who are not interested in attending Cornell University, but interested in the University, we have historical and bus tours. I also often direct visitors to the Plantations, Lab of Ornithology, the Johnson Museum, the Orchards and the Cornell Dairy Bar, which all host their own tours and programs. ”
Each year, approximately 32,000 people attend tours at the University, according to Campus Information and Visitor Relations.
“Most of our guests are prospective students and families, although we do offer special tours for large groups,” Luce said. “The types of groups that come through our office run the gamut of high school students, summer camps, foreign dignitaries, and senior citizens.”
In addition to tours, there are a vast number of people who stay at the Statler Hotel, visiting without an affiliation to a conference or tour group.
“We are in a unique position here as a University: We are close enough to the hubs on the east coast that you are within driving distance, but far enough away that you cannot treat it as a one-day stop on a big college swing,” said Richard Adie ’75, general manager of the Statler Hotel. “Because of that, many people take advantage of the various lectures and cultural events on campus, which we compile onto a flyer and distribute each morning.”
Although a majority of the 21,000 unaffiliated visitors to the hotel are prospective students or family members of students, there is also a large contingent of alumni who visit during the warmer months.
“Cornell as an institution generates a great deal of loyalty within its alumni,” said Geoff Gray ’08, director of rooms for the Statler. “That loyalty makes them want to come back.”
Major events, such as commencements, homecomings and reunions, are typical high points in alumni activity on campus. Many times, however, alumni return simply to visit.
“What is interesting to me is that the alums come back they don’t take the typical tours. Instead, they start reliving their college experience,” Adie said. “They go to the Hot Truck, the Chapter House or their old frat house, just enjoying the atmosphere and to take it all in.”
While prospective students and alumni still make up the majority of visitors to campus, Cornell’s geography, lectures and history may deem the University a tourist location.