Shanghai environmental official Xinyan Qiu made history here this week as the 30,000th international visitor of the Buffalo-Niagara Region Council for International Visitors.
Director of the Shanghai Environmental Project Office of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Agency, he kept a whirlwind schedule -- touching base with American peers at the Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp.
He also toured the Michael C. O'Laughlin Municipal Water Plant in Niagara Falls and took in a University at Buffalo library exhibit explaining chemical contamination at Love Canal in Niagara Falls.
On Thursday, he was treated to a turkey dinner at the Buffalo home of Roger J. Gray, president of Ecology & Environment Inc. Today, he was to visit the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency and then leave Western New York for the Adirondacks.
"We prepared a certificate for Mr. Qiu, to honor him as the Buffalo-Niagara Region CIV's 30,000th visitor," said Brad K. Mazon, executive director of the local non-profit organization that welcomes hundreds of foreign officials to the Buffalo area each year.
Started in the 1950s, the local Council for International Visitors helps create commercial, educational and cultural ties between international visitors and residents of Western New York.
Its international visitors are all sponsored by U.S. government departments including the U.S. Information Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as the University at Buffalo.
"They come through a highly selective process through their own countries," Mazon said, noting that local home hospitality is often as important as professional linkages.
"Long-term relationships between visitors and their local hosts have been developed over the years as a direct result of home hospitality," Mazon said.
"The special connection that is made between host and visitor is what feeds these relationships. The international aspect of that is undeniably part of the glue that holds it together."
The local Council for International Visitors is one of nearly 100 such councils across the country.
Within the last few months, it has added corporate cultural training and visitor-support services to its offerings. Both programs benefit local interests, for a fee.
The local council also has a "Hands Across the Sea" global education program with School 40 at Clinton Street and Fillmore Avenue.
International delegations and individuals interested in visiting the Buffalo public school often get to have lunch in Randi's Red Door Cafe, 1363 Sycamore St., an East Side restaurant that has become a council favorite.
"We craft programs to fit the visitors," Mazon said, mentioning a Macedonian mayor and his wife who were here recently to study economic revitalization and urban beautification.
The program created for them included a stop at Buffalo Place, a Forever Elmwood tour on the Elmwood Shuttle, and a trip to the Broadway Market.