Tourism Ambassador Program Aims to Improve Columbia Visits
COLUMBIA - A new program launched by the Convention and Visitors Bureau is trying to enhance the tourism experience for visitors to Columbia.
The Certified Tourism Ambassador program is a nationwide training program the bureau had personalized for Columbia front-line workers and volunteers. A front-line worker is anyone who directly interacts with visitors, from taxi drivers to restaurant servers to hotel front desk workers.
Certification is achieved after the completion of an ambassador class and passing an open book test. The goal is for CTA's to provide a more enriching experience for visitors by being knowledgeable about all aspects of the city and being able to offer advice for restaurants, activities and good places to stay.
Megan McConachie, one of the CTA program trainers, said many aspects of Columbia are appealing to visitors.
"People really get a unique experiences when they come here," she said. "They love being outside in our parks during the summer and shopping all throughout the year. There's a lot we can really pitch to different types of people."
The program cost $35,000 to launch. The funding came from the 4 percent lodging tax attached to hotel bills when visitors check out of hotels.
Columbia City Councilman Michael Trapp said he believes this is a smart use of city money.
"It's Convention and Visitors Bureau dollars so all of that money needs to go toward supporting tourism," he said. "That seems like an effective use of using those funds to help fill hotel rooms."
McConachie said she believes the program will exceed expectations. The bureau hopes to have 150 CTA's by the end of 2013. There are currently 95 CTA's with another 18 people registered for the certification class in May.
If you want to learn more about the classes or sign up to become a Certified Tourism Ambassador, you can visit the national page at www.ctanetwork.com or the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau website. The cost for the class is $25.