Two words: Tourism Ambassadors.
Nearly three years ago, in front of God and country (okay, the Anaheim Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau and many friends and partners), I pledged to do my best to make a tourist feel good about touring Southern California. I became a Certified Tourism Ambassador.
In fact, the credo of the Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) Program is “to increase tourism by training and inspiring front-line hospitality employees and volunteers to work together to turn every visitor encounter into a positive experience.” During my day-long training I learned landmarks, area history and got better acquainted with Southern California geography to assist any future wayward travelers I ran across. It came in handy many times.
Once while attending a conference in Anaheim, I spotted a gentleman standing outside a hotel smoking a cigarette. I approached him and asked if he was enjoying his stay. He said yes and 30 minutes later I found out that he was from London and that this was his first trip to the U.S. among other things. He was headed to LAX and was dreading the traffic. His name was Reggie and I gave him an insider route to avoid the 405 freeway. He parted a very happy traveler.
As Certified Tourism Ambassadors, our goal is to put tourists at ease, make them smile and solve a problem if we can.
Last summer I met a couple at a LAX hotel getting off an elevator. I heard accents, smiled and asked if they were coming or going. They were in LA for a seven-day cruise and had a day layover. I gave them ideas for things to do within the LAX area which would still get them back in time to catch their shuttle to the port. They were very grateful and actually tried to give me a tip.
For the CTA, our goal is to put tourists at ease, make them smile and solve a problem if we can. Hotel staff and concierges get paid to be helpful and friendly to tourists. And tourists expect that. We CTAs do it for the love of tourism. The Anaheim Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau has CTA cab drivers (brilliant!), airport attendants, foodservice workers and government employees. Everybody wins when the tourist has a good experience!
There are more than 8,000 CTAs in 15 states and the program continues to grow. Some meeting planners have even said that, if given a choice, they would select a CTA destination over a non-CTA destination. Now that’s power. As a tourism ambassador, I have to recertify every year. Every year, I reinforce my brand. Every year I reinforce my destination. I am a Certified Tourism Ambassador. I think the website says it best: CTAs are unique. CTAs are special. CTAs are valued.