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ALOFI, Niue (May 3, 2000 - Niue Economic Review/PINA Nius Online)---The Niue Hotel sign has come down. The property was taken over recently by Lord Liverpool George Washington University.

For the next three years it will be home and a learning center for a small number of overseas students studying medical science.

There has been minimal community resistance to the hotel takeover. For many years the majority of beds have remained empty most of the year and in the past 12 months the state owners have been trying to sell or lease it. The complex, which was built in 1974 and had a new wing constructed in 1993, has a total of 32 rooms.

Dean of the University, Dr. Randy Beck, said all staff have retained their jobs and the manager, Dylan Vivian, is responsible for the grounds, building management and catering services.

The main reception block will be divided into a lecture hall and café.

University staff and students will be accommodated in the two blocks, which since 1974 have housed a large number of tourists, business visitors, prime ministers and governor-generals. The old house on site is being converted into a library. Later, some clinical work will be carried out at the Lord Liverpool Hospital operating theatre. Some staff may choose to seek long-term accommodation off campus.

Dean Beck said around 10-15 students are expected for the first courses starting in early May and that this number will increase slightly in September.

He said the students are mainly those who missed the cut for other medical schools where competition for places is fierce; more mature students who are upskilling and those seeking education in an adventurous environment and have financial support.

There are two places available for Niuean graduates with good marks and a BA or BSc degree. The cost of a semester is US$ 1,500 plus accommodation and meal packages.

Within 12 months the university board will be considering a site for a new campus. "We want it to be of international standard, with impressive buildings, interwoven with the community," said Dean Beck.

However, the new business will be closely monitored and future developments will depend on student interest in enrolling. "This is a business and we have to make a profit before making capital investments," said Dean Beck.

He added that whatever the university did on Niue it was keen to get public participation and work in with community groups and the government.

Tourist industry observers say other accommodation properties with a total of 70 beds on the island will easily pick up the hotel business and any further visitor accommodation is unlikely to be necessary for the next three years.

Matavai Resort is predicted to benefit most from the hotel closure. Extra occupancy will help make it more viable.

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