Alcoa High students become tourism ambassadors

Posted 09/25/2014
By Matthew Stewart
The Daily Times

Blount County's tourism development program has found its way into the classroom.

Blount Partnership's Director of Tourism Kim Mitchell served as a guest lecturer last week for Alcoa High School teacher Joy Gornto's travel and tourism class. She spent three days with students, discussing the county and its branding.

"We want students to be knowledgeable about the area," Mitchell said. "They can take these skills into their jobs."

Students participated in the Blount Tourism Ambassador Program, a multifaceted program that serves to increase tourism by inspiring front-line employees and volunteers to turn every visitor encounter into a positive experience. Every student passed required testing and received the Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) designation.

Tourism Ambassador Institute licenses the nationwide certification program, which delivers its curriculum through preclass reading assignments and in-class participation. In addition to earning a credential, students also received a certificate and gold lapel pin.

Alcoa High School is the state's first high school to complete the program, according to the Blount Partnership's information.

"Tourism is about creating experiences," Mitchell said in a press release. "Front-line workers can have the biggest impact on making a visitor's trip to Blount County the best it can be."

"I've learned a lot about Blount County," said junior Madison Davis. "I've lived here my whole life, and it's cool to learn about attractions, such as the Sam Houston Historic Schoolhouse, I never knew were here."

"I'm always interested in learning about the Smokies and national parks," said junior Caelan Evans. "Not to mention, I want tourists to come to Blount County. It's my home. I'm incredibly proud of it, and I want to show everybody we're more than they think."

"We can definitely compete with other counties," Davis said. "There's a lot more to Townsend than people realize, and it's representative of who we are in this county. We're peaceful, friendly and welcoming."

"People can come here and truly get away from city life," Evans said. "We're not a tourist trap like some areas."

‘Resume builder'

Students learn about strategy and theory in the travel and tourism class, Gornto said. "All of it has led right into this certification process. It's a wonderful resume builder."

The high-schoolers will apply their newfound knowledge in the coming months, she said. They will create a one- to five-minute tourism video for their class final.

"They're going to find attractions, put together a video and show us what they've learned," Gornto said. "It's a real world, practical application of their knowledge and skills. It's also a taste of what they can do in the future."

Mitchell plans to show the videos to the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority's board. The body also might put the tourism videos on their website.

"We can't wait to see what they have for us," she said.

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