Although the average guest may not notice, the Best Western Plus Westerly Hotel in Courtenay is home to a number of international North Island College (NIC) students during their time in the Valley.
The hotel devoted an area of the hotel to longer-term dormitory-style student housing just before the fall semester started, and the new initiative has been a big success so far, according to hotel general manger David Rooper.
"I've been very impressed with the transition and the rollout of this — it's relatively new, we've just started it, and it's been fantastic," says Rooper, adding hotel staff have gotten to know the students during their stays.
"That's the fun part because they're so unique because they're from all parts of the world — so that's been actually an eye-opener of the different cultures and their needs."
Rooper notes 12 rooms are available for international students to stay in, and they're located in their own corridor on the river side of the hotel so there's an NIC wing of sorts for them to stay in.
One- and two-bedroom self-contained suites offer students a chance to live alone or with someone else, and each suite has a kitchenette and balcony.
Students also have access to hotel facilities such as the pool, hot tub and fitness room, and they have the safety of 24-hour security.
He notes occupancy rates vary from month to month but the rooms have generally been full.
"The phone's ringing, we've got lots of demand for the next semester and we really like what's going on — and they're a really great bunch of kids," he adds. "We hope to double our capacity (of international student rooms) in the new year."
North Island College International associate director Colleen Hanley also says the new accommodation option has been working out well.
"The students who have stayed there and moved on or the students who are continuing to stay there speak very highly of the experience that they're having there," says Hanley, adding the hotel has been a great business partner in this endeavour.
She notes different students prefer different living situations so it's important to be able to offer variety to them while they're in the Comox Valley.
"It's an opportunity, from our perspective, for students to have an accommodation opportunity different from homestay and different from peerstay," says Hanley. "Some students are interested in living on their own and interested living in a more dorm-type of environment where they have roommates and people that they cook meals with, and so the Westerly provides a great opportunity for that to happen."
For more information on the college's international program, visit www.international.nic.bc.ca.