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Across Anaheim and Orange County, a group of individuals are tasked with taking each visitor’s experience to the next level. On their lapel, they wear a gold pin as a badge of honor. These are Certified Tourism Ambassadors, an elite network of professionals who have received rigorous training on top of their regular jobs to deliver excellent customer service to every visitor they encounter.

“They are trained to have a lot of empathy and put themselves in a visitor's shoes,” says Barbara McClelland, Visit Anaheim’s CTA Program Manager. “There’s a lot of pride in wearing the pin.”

The Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) certification program launched nationwide in 2009. Here in Orange County, more than 4,500 individuals have participated over the last decade. Facilitators host classes once a month and arm CTAs with valuable information about the history of Anaheim and Orange County, in addition to extensive customer service training. By the end of the program, CTAs know the ins and outs of the region and are able to answer questions with ease—from providing tips on the best nightlife to making recommendations for a family-friendly itinerary.

“We're the first in California to have a CTA program and the only one in SoCal,” McClelland says.

With over 1,000 active CTAs, Anaheim also has one of the largest networks in the program. The expansive network provides many opportunities for guests to interact with CTAs, starting from the moment they arrive in Orange County. John Wayne Airport concierge staff and taxi drivers are among those certified through the program, in addition to employees at 175 Visit Anaheim partner companies such as Disneyland®Resort, Hilton Anaheim, Knott’s Berry Farm and more.

McClelland explains that a CTA’s specialized training and knowledge of the city makes all the difference. Visitors can recognize CTAs by either a gold or silver pin featuring three stars and know that the individual they’re talking to may be their greatest resource. A CTA’s top priority is ensuring their trip to Anaheim is memorable.

“For example, if a visitor in town to celebrate a birthday but is traveling alone, a CTA’s training would kick in. They are trained to find ways to go that extra mile and make that day special,” McClelland explains. “That may look like a welcome cocktail at the hotel bar or an upgraded room with a view—just offering something so they are made to feel extra special.”

While CTAs have diverse professional backgrounds, they have one important trait in common: “They love Anaheim,” McClelland says. “CTAs really take a lot of pride in their certification. It gives them a sense of purpose.”

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