If you’ve ever visited a destination and asked someone a simple question about the area and gotten a blank look as your response, you have experienced a problem that many destinations have. Including Lake County. But Lake County now has a solution - the Lake County Certified Tourism Ambassador’s (CTA) Program.
The CTA program is part of a national organization that offers certification as a Certified Tourism Ambassador. Having a tourism destination included in this organization is a lengthy and very, very involved process.
Tony has been involved in the process from about its middle and was a bit of a skeptic at first, but Lake County Chamber CEO Melissa Fulton has been all-in since she learned of the program. She was right. Melissa is usually right.
“I feel that this program can make all the difference in the world on how our residents view where they live and how they talk about it,” said Melissa. She’s been the program’s leading cheerleader/advocate since she first heard of the program some three years ago.
This program is so significant that the County itself has funded some 200 people to go through it. We're very fortunate to have a County that really gets the "big picture." And there are other places in the US that have adopted this program as well including Anaheim, CA; Houston and San Antonion, TX and many, many others.
Essentially the program starts with interviews of area experts on what makes the area special. Hours and hours and hours of interviews with all sorts of people in the area, from farmers to winemakers to historians to government folk and more. Essentially, the vision is to create a single document that has just about everything about the area that someone would care to know. And we have that now.
This very, very thick binder has an incredible wealth of information about Lake County from our rich Native American history to a listing of places to eat today. There are historic facts about our museum buildings and the history that they contain. There are listings of places to play golf, the history of the mineral springs resorts and more. A whole lot more.
“Visitors will have more positive experiences and they will speak with people who are more aware of all the things we have to offer,” continued Melissa Fulton.
The cost of this program is high, but the cost of having you visit Lake County and not get your questions answered correctly is even higher.
As with any community, there are lots of people who could be considered area experts and those who are not as well informed as they should be about the area. However, some of those folks are also spreading misinformation to visitors that is harmful, such as telling people that the Lake is dangerous (it’s not).
The idea is that all the “front line” people you encounter eventually go through the certification process so that they can intelligently answer your question with enthusiasm and honesty. These are people like servers in restaurants, clerks at the grocery store and others whom you are likely to encounter while you’re visiting.
This means that that many tens of thousands of dollars that Lake County is investing in these people will make your stay here better. After all, wouldn’t it be great if you asked anybody what to have for dinner or which wineries have gold-medal-winning wines or where the closest public restroom was and actually got an enthusiastic and correct answer?
After sitting in on the planning session for this Tony was in the first official training session and was able to pass the test with flying colors to become among Lake County’s first official Certified Tourism Ambassadors.
This is actually a legal title/certification but the cool thing is the star logo pin that he can wear at any time that shows off his status as an ambassador.
“Honestly this is my favorite part of working at the Featherbed Railroad,” he said, “I love helping guests plan their getaways to match or even exceed their expectations for a great getaway in Lake County!”
The entire Featherbed Railroad team is going to go through the program within the next month so everybody can help you plan your getaway here.
Now, Tony is certified to answer your questions. In the past, most thought he was just certifiable. But what would you expect from a man with a front yard full of cabooses?
So - do you have your reservations yet?
Written by Anthony B. Barthel
A blog about happenings in Lake County.