Could you be an ambassador for Grand Rapids?Posted 08/14/2013
by Andrew Krietz
GRAND RAPIDS, MI - The next time someone looks up in downtown Grand Rapids, ask them: "How can I help you?"
That's the question so-called tourism ambassadors will solicit during the weeks and months to come in tandem with the Experience Grand Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau's local twist on a national program.
The bureau has trained at least 100 volunteers in recent weeks to promote the city and show off the best that Grand Rapids has to offer, said Lisa Verhil, the visitor services manager at the bureau.
When tourists come to the city, they might wonder where the best restaurants are located or how they can get the most of the area's entertainment options, Verhil said.
Organizers hope the volunteers, people largely associated with the area's hospitality and restaurant industries, will have the training needed to make sure tourists know where to go and make a positive first impression.
"It's all about to empower and educate our front line of people, to talk about Grand Rapids' history, the attractions, the demographics," Verhil said. "The deal is, if you're walking the sidewalks in downtown Grand Rapids and you see people looking up, you need to approach them."
Verhil first heard of the Certified Tourism Ambassador program while visiting Milwaukee, Wis., last year and proposed getting the Grand Rapids on the same page.
Kent County generates $1.9 billion throughout the county, and this program could help boost tourism's impact in the years to come, Verhil said.
People interested in the program can sign up online, and the cost for a training class is $35 per person with a $10 annual fee. Candidates need to pass an open-book test at the end of the class to become certified.
A class to volunteer during ArtPrize currently is being offered from 1-5 p.m. Saturday at the ArtPrize Hub, 41 Sheldon Blvd. SE.
Organizers hope the program can spread the word of the area to others who never have been and keep them coming back, Dave Wisley, general manager of CityFlatsHotel, 83 Monroe Center.
"The program tailors what we have to offer to what our guests need," said Wisley, who will help facilitate classes. "A lot of times, they don't know what they want.
"There's so much information out there ... and (this program) makes the response to inquires consistent."More Information