Gettysburg 'ambassadors' train for 150th

Posted 01/15/2010
By ERIN JAMES

The Evening Sun

Your mission: Develop a three-day itinerary for newlyweds on their honeymoon in Gettysburg.

The guidelines: Be sure to remember dining, lodging and shopping opportunities in those plans. Certainly, don't neglect the historic sites.

(And, yes, the couple does intend to leave the hotel room.)

If you included a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride, some Adams County wine and a trip to Boyds Bear Country anywhere in those plans, then you are on the same track as a group of local hospitality professionals given the same task on Wednesday.

And, of course, no trip to Gettysburg is complete without a visit to the battlefield.

That's the type of exercise included in the Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) program that kicked off this week in Gettysburg for workers on the front lines of the local tourism industry.

Industry professionals have said 2013 could bring more than 4 million people to the small town where Union forces in July 1863 first gained the momentum needed to defeat the Confederate Army and end the Civil War.

The 2013 projection represents an increase of roughly 1 million people compared to normal years.

What that means is some serious potential for making money for Gettysburg restaurants, stores, hotels, museums and every other kind of business.

So, in the interest of maximizing that potential, a multi-state partnership that focuses on preservation and heritage tourism in the region launched the "Ambassador" training program that officials hope will prepare Gettysburg - and other historic sites - for the onslaught of tourists they expect with the Civil War's sesquicentennial anniversary.

"The sesquicentennial of the Civil War has the potential to jumpstart the local economy, much like the Olympics or the Super Bowl coming to town," said Cate Magennis Wyatt, president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) is a four-state partnership that formed in 2001 with the goal of preserving the Route 15 corridor from Gettysburg to Monticello and raising awareness of the history connected to it. In that vein, the nonprofit enlisted the help of state and local officials, preservationists, educators and historians.

These days, the Journey is focusing its effort on promoting tourism. The ambassador program is similar to ones implemented by cities like Phoenix, Anaheim and Baltimore. For example, Phoenix used a CTA program in 2008 to prepare for the Super Bowl.

Gettysburg is just one of the destination sites within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground's 180-mile corridor.

The goal of the training program, according to a JTHG press release, is to "train thousands of staff who interact with visitors regularly (and) to elevate the visitor experience into one that encourages them to stay longer, experience more of the JTHG National Heritage Area, share their positive experiences with others, and come for return visits."

Journey Through Hallowed Ground expects to train more than 4,000 workers during the next two years.

The heart of the program is a half-day interactive class supported by extensive reading material.

About 30 people - including hotel staff, licensed town guides and employees of the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau - participated in the class held Wednesday at the Gettysburg Hotel.

Some of those trainees will become trainers themselves and share their knowledge with future classes of Gettysburg workers.

Though Gettysburg is naturally the focal point of the local ambassador program, Journey Through Hallowed Ground Vice President Beth Erickson said trainees are also being encouraged to learn about the region and share that knowledge with visitors as well.

The partnership says the entire Route 15 corridor is home to nine presidential homes, the largest collection of Civil War battlefields in the country, Revolutionary War headquarters of several generals, sites from the French and Indian War and the War of 1812, sites of Native American and African American history and 13 units of the National Park Service.

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