CONWAY — Local entrepreneur and Kennett High School graduate George Wu is opening a new, first-of-its-kind lodging facility in North Conway next week to house international student employees with J1 visas.
For many businesses, these employees are key to keeping their companies running smoothly during their busy season, but there often is a shortage of quality housing for them.
Wu, a graduate of UNH with a hospitality degree, decided he didn’t just want to provide housing but also adventure and a complete experience for the students.
The North Conway businessman completely refurbished and upgraded the former Maple Leaf Motel at 2212 White Mountain Highway and has turned it into the new Work and Travel Lodge.
According to Wu: “I had some rental properties in North Conway for vacationers, and every year I would get room requests from international workers coming here for the season.
"Like many rentals and hotels around here, I was already booked for the season. But I saw there was a definite need for not just more housing but also quality housing that is safe, convenient and affordable for these exchange employees.”
The property doesn’t just provide a bed for the students but also the opportunity to partake in adventures, trips and scheduled activities in a friendly community-like setting.
Wu is an avid traveler, having explored 80 countries and counting.
From his experience staying at hostels around the world, he incorporated many of the ideas into his new facility.
“Businesses definitely count on these employees to help fill their staffing needs for the season," Wu explained. "But, often due to lack of quality rentals, the employees end up in sub-par living situations.
"We want to leave these visitors with a fantastic experience and wonderful memories of our community. We have a 'chief experience officer' on staff and will be offering several guided adventure trips and activity nights," Wu said.
"We have outdoor sports equipment, board games, a book exchange and even a guitar they can play. We want them to feel like they have a home away from home.”
Weekly rates for the rooms are competitively priced and include amenities such as free Wi-Fi, cable TV, Playstation 3, comfortable lounge areas, outdoor grill and a business center with a computer, printer and web camera.
Rooms will have plenty of space for guests, with only two to four people sleeping in each. All rooms have TVs, extra-long twin beds and private bathrooms.
In addition to the fully equipped community kitchen, each room also has a microwave and refrigerator.
All the furniture has been upgraded, and each guest will get his or her own brand-new sheet set, mattress cover, pillow and a freshly laundered comforter.
For additional safety, all rooms are controlled by electronic door locks for which each student will have an individual pass code.
“We want to work with local businesses as best we can to make this a win-win for our entire area,” said Wu.
“If businesses want to reserve rooms ahead of time, schedule transportation or private tours for their employees, or subsidize the housing for their employees, they can call us directly at (603)-736-7663."
Wu added: "We even have a rewards program allowing employers to show appreciation for a job done well. The Work and Travel Lodge is all about giving a new experience to employers and students alike here.”