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Press Release - Certified Tourism Ambassador Force Becomes 10,000 Strong

Sept. 19, 2013

Contact:  Mickey Schaefer, CAE, 520-219-0469, mickey@mickeyandassociates.com, Tourism Ambassador InstituteTM

Certified Tourism AmbassadorTMForce Becomes 10,000 Strong


Columbus, Ohio National Hockey League Team Executive Becomes Milestone CTA in National Program

A public relations executive for the National Hockey League's Columbus, Ohio, Blue Jackets has become the 10,000th active Certified Tourism AmbassadorTM (CTA) trained in providing outstanding customer service and creating exceptional experiences to visitors in his city.

"I think it's tremendous that there are that many individuals who are CTAs," Todd Sharrocksays Todd Sharrock, CTA, vice president of communications and team services for the Blue Jackets. "It says a great deal about the success of the program and the importance that people place in it."

"Todd symbolizes how tourism destinations are recognizing that enhancing the visitor experience is an essential way to set themselves apart," says Mickey Schaefer, CAE, president of Mickey Schaefer and Associates, whose Tourism Ambassador InstituteTM develops CTA programs for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) nationwide.


The program trains and certifies employees and volunteers in the tourism industry to become experts in what their respective region has to offer to visitors and how to meet visitor needs. They include front-line staff and executive managers who work in hotels, attractions, restaurants, government, transportation and many other industries.

CTA Training in Columbus, Ohio


Sharrock completed his training in August through Experience Columbus, a CTA accredited provider. The program, along with others in San Antonio, Texas, and Sonoma County, California, are among the fastest growing CTA programs in the United States.

As part of the certification, Sharrock and his fellow CTAs learned about Columbus history, geography, shopping, dining and attractions. They focused on how to best serve visitors ─ together ─ as an entire community.

He's lived in the area on and off for 25 years, including since 2000. His job involves helping new players settle in and working with out-of-town media, which requires that he knows a lot about the city. He says he learned much from the CTA training, especially
about the city's history and urban neighborhoods. "While I felt that Columbus had a lot to offer, I came away impressed that there was even more," he says.


"We are proud to say the nation's 10,000th CTA was certified through our program right here in Columbus," says Brian Ross, CTA, president and CEO of Experience Columbus. "Todd Sharrock is one of nearly 1,000 CTAs who have been certified in Columbus
in our inaugural year, and we are very happy with the effect the program is already having on the visitor experience in our destination."

Sharrock also is a board member of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, a partner in the Experience Columbus CTA program.


Regions Exceeding CTA Recruitment Goals


Several CTA programs are growing faster than expected with "healthy competition"' to reach the 1,000 mark first, says Schaefer.  The formula for their success is the same: Strong support among civic leaders and their DMO partners throughout the community, CTA-exclusive events and outings and a growing network of proud fellow CTAs who share ideas, information and enthusiasm.


Experience Columbus set a goal of having 600 Certified Tourism Ambassadors 12 months after it started its CTA program in January. It reached that number in May and now is close to reaching 1,000. Event planners specifically request the ambassadors to become volunteers to help guide attendees of major events.


When Sonoma County Tourism launched its CTA program last October, it similarly hoped to certify 500 ambassadors in 12 months. They hit that mark by April and are nearing the 1,000 mark, thanks to support and participation by the vintners, wine growers, communities and attractions.


"The CTA program has really helped show the value of destination marketing out in the community," says Ken Fischang, CHME, CMP, CTA, Sonoma County Tourism CEO. "We're all in this together."


The San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau had expected to certify 1,000 ambassadors by the end of September when it joined last October. It now has the largest contingent of CTAs in the program with an expected 1,100 by Oct. 1.


"We are proud that our partners have utilized the certification curriculum as a way to invest in their employees," says Casandra Matej, CTA, executive director of the San Antonio CVB, "and to ensure that every visitor continues to receive the exceptional service that San Antonio is known for. "




The Tourism Ambassador InstituteTM licenses and accredits local TAI Accredited Providers, often destination marketing  organizations (DMO) such as convention and visitors bureaus, to offer the Certified Tourism Ambassador TM (CTA) program at the local level.


The institute, founded by Mickey Schaefer, CAE, president of Mickey Schaefer & Associates LLC, customizes the CTA program for each destination through research and collaboration with the TAI Accredited Provider and local stakeholders.  Schaefer was named "25 Most Influential in the Meetings Industry" by Successful Meetings magazine and as one of the top six industry leaders by Smart Meetings magazine for her work on industry standards.

More than 10,000 CTAs enhance the visitor experience in retail and restaurant businesses, lodging, government, community service, hospitals, and other settings. Eighteen CTA programs, including new ones in Stockton, Grand Rapids, Oklahoma City, Columbus, Smoky Mountains, Sonoma County, San Antonio and Columbia, exist in 15 states and involve more than 100 DMOs.




Related Links

Certified Tourism AmbassadorTM program, https://www.ctanetwork.com/
Tourism Ambassador InstituteTM, http://www.tourismambassadorinstitute.com/
Experience Columbus, http://www.experiencecolumbus.com/
San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau, http://visitsanantonio.com/
Sonoma County Tourism, http://www.sonomacounty.com/