In the last two issues of COMO, I’ve introduced you to why tourism is important to Columbia and Boone County, as well as what the Convention and Visitors Bureau, or CVB, does to bring visitors to our area. For my last article, I’m going to take some time to discuss how important you are to the success of the tourism industry in our area and the big and small things you can do to make Columbia the best destination possible.
First, I want you to take a moment to think about the last time you were traveling and needed help or had a question. Did you find the help you needed? Was the person friendly? Were they memorable? Did that interaction color the experience you had and affect how you talk about the destination to friends and family now?
My favorite personal example of an over-the-top experience is from the first time I visited Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was traveling alone on a Sunday afternoon to attend a conference. I had traveled all day, needed to eat, and the hotel staff pointed me towards downtown. When I arrived, I found a restaurant that looked open and approached the hostess stand only to find out they were closing for the afternoon. Apparently, my disappointment was quite obvious, and she immediately apologized.
But she didn’t stop there.
She made a phone call, walked around the hostess stand, told me that the restaurant with the best burger in town was still open and proceeded to walk me a few blocks down the street and into that restaurant. And she was right; the burger was amazing! That hostess and that experience has stayed with me for years. Plus, even though I didn’t eat in her restaurant on my first trip, you can bet I did the next time I visited!
What if everyone who visited Columbia had this kind of “wow” moment or interaction? What if that moment happened everywhere they went? From the airport to the taxi, the hotel, restaurants, retail, events, and even a random person walking down the street, people have dozens of interactions everywhere they travel. What if we all were welcoming and excited to help? Those visitors would remember Columbia as a welcoming city and they would come back. Not only would they come back, but they’d also tell their friends and family what a great experience they had here.
Remember, you never know why a person is visiting. Perhaps they are looking to bring their business to town or move their family. Their welcome into our community could be the reason they decide to make that move.
Ready to get involved? The CVB has an active Columbia Tourism Ambassador program. The CTA program inspires employees, tourism partners, volunteers, and Columbia citizens so they can turn every visitor encounter into a positive experience. From the time a visitor hits the city limits to the time they see the population sign in their rearview mirror, we hope every person the visitor talks to was informative, pleasant, and went out of their way to make sure they felt welcome in Columbia.
We have over 200 active CTAs and continue to build our CTA team by holding classes every other month. There are also monthly lunch and learns around Columbia so CTAs can get an inside look at the variety of attractions Columbia has to offer. We have volunteer opportunities at events and conferences where our CTAs can put their skills to work welcoming visitors and telling them about our community. Our CTA program is a great way to take Columbia’s already welcoming, friendly, vibrant community to the next level, and it’s a great way to show your love for our city.
The CVB is a department of 11 people and it is our job to encourage visitation to Columbia. As much as we’d like to, we can’t welcome each visitor to Columbia individually. Once a visitor arrives, we put their experience in the hands of the community, so we will always look to you for help in making each visitor’s experience a positive one.
Now that I’m wrapping up my series of articles, it’s my hope that you have a better understanding of tourism and its positive effects on the Columbia economy and community. I have the privilege of coming to work every day and promoting the place I choose to live with my family; I can’t think of anywhere else I would want to be.