RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - is training volunteers to be tourism ambassadors. They'll not only help give information to the 450,000 visitors coming to Richmond for the
in September, but experts also say they're key to maintaining Richmond's overall tourism boom.
Students in the
class are learning to simply answer visitor questions about what local attractions, restaurants and sights they can see.
"We want to have little mini-concierges going around talking about what people can experience," said Tamera Harris with Richmond Region Tourism.
The ambassadors come from all walks of life.
"We have bankers, we have real estate folks, we have hoteliers, we have concierge associations, we have restaurants, we have salon stylists," said Harris.
Richmond Region Tourism has been training ambassadors for years, but they ramped up classes this year because 450,000 visitors are coming for the World Cycling Championships. Ryan Barnes, a manager at the Hilton Garden Inn, is attending the class."There are a lot of attractions and historical sites that even I didn't know about after 20 years in the area," he said.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe just announced Virginia's tourism revenue is up another four percent, exceeding $22 billion per year. Tourism officials say the biggest factor that leads visitors to the state is not advertising but word of mouth.
Chesterfield's Tourism Project Manager John Watt is also attending the class. "It is so important because our largest market visiting the region is friends and family. And so the word of mouth, promotion of our area, of the attractions, is just vital," he said.
Harris says some ambassadors will be placed as volunteers in information booths and the Visitor Centers during the World Cycling Championships. She says these ambassadors are important year-round, with conferences in town every week and millions of travelers a year coming to taste, see and experience Richmond.
The I Am Tourism class is free and open to anyone. Harris says classes are also offered for companies that wish to have more than four employees attend.