August 6, 2008 BACVA
BACVA LAUNCHES CITYWIDE CUSTOMER SERVICE TRAINING PROGRAM
Program Aims to Improve Visitors' Experience through Ambassador Education and Customer Service Training
(BALTIMORE, MD) - Today, the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (BACVA) launched the Baltimore Tourism Ambassador Program, Baltimore's first citywide tourism customer service training initiative, at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. The goal of the Baltimore Tourism Ambassador Program is to raise the level of customer service in Baltimore's hospitality community by creating a city of ambassadors who will positively influence visitor experiences in the city. The program will also enhance visitor perceptions and, ultimately, drive repeat visitation.
The Baltimore Tourism Ambassador Program is administered through the nationally recognized Tourism Ambassador InstituteTM, a certification program that educates and trains front-line employees in the tourism industry. Participants are tested on Baltimore's history, heritage, neighborhoods, museums, attractions, and new development and projects so they are knowledgeable about the city when speaking to visitors. The program upholds the idea that when front-line employees provide accurate information and quality service to convention attendees and leisure and business travelers, those visitors are more likely to have a favorable experience. Visitors who feel welcome and appreciated in a city are more likely to return in the future and share their positive perceptions with others.
"Everyone who interacts with the visitor from our taxi cab drivers to restaurant waitstaff has the opportunity to enhance a visitor's time in Baltimore," said Tom Noonan, president and CEO of BACVA. "Through the Baltimore Tourism Ambassador Program, we will empower front-line staff throughout the city to be the best that they can be and, as a result, provide a memorable visit for our guests. In this highly competitive marketplace, it is more important than ever that Baltimore's level of customer service sets us apart from our competitors."
BACVA worked with the nationally recognized Certified Tourism Ambassador Network for more than six months to build the Baltimore Tourism Ambassador Program, working through a multiphase process that included local focus groups with front-line staff, custom program development, field testing, a "train the trainers" workshop and now the program's launch. With the launch of the Baltimore Tourism Ambassador Program, Maryland joins five other states -
Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin - currently offering the Certified Tourism Ambassador certification to their hospitality partners. The two-year old training program will soon add the District of Columbia and Washington state to its growing list of destination partners and has interest from more than 100 other cities.
Becoming a Certified Tourism Ambassador requires participation in a rigorous curriculum that includes pre-reading and pre-class exercises, a half-day classroom session, an open-book exam, and a commitment to recertify annually. The program costs $25 for each participant with an annual renewal fee of $25. Upon completion of all program requirements, front-line employees and volunteers are awarded the Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) designation and are encouraged to use the initials CTA behind their names, i.e., John Smith, CTA.
The program goal for the first year is to train 500 city and hospitality employees including cab drivers, rental car agents, hotel and restaurant staff, and others who interact with Baltimore visitors. BACVA will also host quarterly meetings exclusively for Baltimore Tourism Ambassadors to network with other Certified Tourism Ambassadors.
The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (BACVA) is the official sales and marketing organization for Baltimore that generates economic benefits for stakeholders through the attraction of convention, group and leisure visitors. For more information, please visit www.baltimore.org.
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