Blount to start state’s first Certified Tourism Ambassador Program

Posted 04/02/2013

The Daily Times

Blount County is establishing the first Certified Tourism Development Program in Tennessee.

The Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority announced Tuesday that the new program is designed to inspire frontline hospitality employees and volunteers in the area to work together to give Blount County visitors a positive experience.

"Great hospitality is what Tennessee is all about," state Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker said in a news release.

"Tourism employees on our front lines are often the first impression a visitor experiences. This new Ambassador Program will ensure that visitors to Blount County get the best possible information, taking our already great hospitality to an even higher level."

The Blount County Tourism Ambassador Program will be one of the first in the Southeast.

"We have the attractions and natural beauty that draw thousands of visitors to our area each year," said Tami Vater, director of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority. "But we have to also make sure that we are showing each visitor our hospitality as well to ensure they have a wonderful experience so they want to return."

The program is based on a nationwide certification program that is designed for all levels of employees. It provides customized training where successful candidates receive a certification and the designation of Certified Tourism Ambassador.

The program's curriculum will include economic impact, attractions, dining, lodging, shopping, waterways, historic landmarks, maps, hospitality 101 and quarterly networking.

The program will provide people in the community who interact with visitors the knowledge base and resources to answer questions effectively. It is designed for anyone who is involved in the tourism industry, such as gas station attendants, hotel staff, restaurant workers, retail workers, attractions' employees and government employees.

"The program will be beneficial for anyone who might come in contact with a visitor," Vater said.

Focus groups

The initiative begins with a series of focus groups, followed by a "Subject Matter Expert Panel," and an online/print survey to the front line and management. Insights garnered from the focus groups and other research will be used to develop the program curriculum.

Once the curriculum is field tested, "train-the-facilitator" sessions will be conducted with a select group of local hospitality industry representatives.

Vater said the kickoff of the countywide training program is expected to take place in October.

"Our goal is to certify a majority of our frontline employees during the first year of the Blount County Tourism Ambassadors Program," she said.

For more information on the Blount County Certified Tourism Ambassador Program, contact Vater at 865-273-1213 or (

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