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13 Mar

Havasu graduates 1st class of tourism ambassador program

By BRANDON MESSICK Today’s News-Herald

Lake Havasu City’s tourism community grew a little stronger Tuesday, as dozens of service and hospitality employees graduated from Havasu’s first certified tourism ambassador classes.

The Lake Havasu Tourism Ambassador program focuses on educating “front line” service and hospitality employees in enriching the experiences of the city’s visitors. The city’s goal is to create more than 100 certified tourism ambassadors within the program’s first year, and the program began last month with its first crop of participants.

Participants and graduates gathered Tuesday at the London Bridge Resort Convention Center to receive their certificates and new titles as certified tourism ambassadors.

 “For those of you graduating today, how does it feel to be a pioneer?” said Mayor Mark Nexsen. “That’s what you will be: Pioneers in this city, and I appreciate you all taking the CTA program. We continue to aspire to be America’s Best Community, and with your graduation today, we will continue to move forward.”

Frontier Communications’ “America’s Best Communities” competition remains a focal point in the city’s efforts in driving tourism, following Havasu’s “Vision 20/20” community development plan. Officials from Havasu’s Partnership for Economic Development have stated that regardless of how well Havasu progresses in the competition next year, “Vision 20/20” will continue to lead Havasu’s community development. The plan comprises five areas of improvement, including that of enhancing the city’s tourism appeal – also known as “Pillar Three.”

According to Nexsen, current projections indicate that Havasu sales taxes are on the verge of surpassing pre-recession figures, thanks in no small part to the city’s tourism economy. “Whether you’re in the tourism industry or not,” Nexsen said, “we are all ambassadors for this community. You are the pioneers – you are the first graduates. I know that you will set the standard very high, and truly make a difference.”

Councilman Cal Sheehy also addressed the graduates. Sheehy was also one of the program’s graduates.

“Pillar Three was charged with developing a community customer service program so visitors would know they arrived somewhere special when they visited Lake Havasu City,” Sheehy said. “Through interactions with frontline team members in our community, and with all business sectors across our community, visitors would know that Havasu was a special place.”

According to Sheehy, hospitality officials collaborated with the Tourism Ambassador Institute to educate hospitality and service employees in giving visitors a better experience for their tourism dollars. “Our dream…was that everyone who visits our great community would leave with a sense of gratitude for the service and personal interactions they experienced during their time in our city. Each graduate of the program will be a certified tourism ambassador, and they can proudly display the initials, CTA, after their name.”

Tourism ambassadors will be required to continue learning about Havasu’s tourism activities and to attend city and hospitality events to maintain their CTA designations.

 Arizona Tourism Office Executive Director Debbie Johnson addressed the graduating CTAs on Tuesday, instilling the importance of the tourism industry in Arizona.

“This is the only industry that impacts all 15 of Arizona’s counties,” Johnson said. “Last year, Arizona had 42.1 million overnight visitors. The tourism industry gained $21 billion in direct tourism spending, and $2.9 billion of that money directly contributes to tax revenues in state, city and county governments. Our industry contributes almost $3 billion, and it covers things like education and public safety – those are the things that are really important to us as residents.”

Johnson emphasized the impact of tourism on Arizona – almost everyone in Arizona benefits from the state’s thriving tourism industry, even if they themselves aren’t in the hospitality or service industries.

“You are all ambassadors of tourism,” Johnson said. “You are all ambassadors of Arizona. The quality of life you have here, and all the residents have here, is due in part to tourism. We have got to be those people, sharing our story, sharing the positive messages about tourism. We need people to understand how important tourism is.”

The Havasu Certified Tourism Ambassador Program works through partnership with the Lake Havasu City Hospitality Association, the Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Lake Havasu Area Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Havasu City Partnership for Economic Development, the Chamber Foundation for Education and Leadership, and the WAVE/JTED Culinary and Hospitality School.