In the eyes of many tourists, they’re the faces of Red Deer. But the front-line workers at local hotels, restaurants and other businesses may not know all they should about the region.
Tourism Red Deer took a big step toward addressing this situation on Friday, when it staged a workshop that could have been called Red Deer 101. Approximately 135 attendees heard presentations about attractions, activities and amenities in the area.
Speakers ranged from Red Deer historian Michael Dawe to Ryan Vold, director of golf at Wolf Creek Golf Resort. Also sharing information about things to do and see in the Red Deer region were representatives of the Red Deer Arts Council, CentreFest, Tour of Alberta, Ellis Bird Farm, Sunnybrook Farm Museum, Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery, Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, Red Deer Airport and the Red Deer Recreation and Parks Department.
Todd Nivens, program co-ordinator at Kerry Wood Nature Centre, even took a short break from sandbagging at the centre to share his insights.
There were also presentations by Jeff Mowatt, a customer service expert and author of the best-selling books, Becoming a Service Icon in 90 Minutes a Month, and Influence with Ease.
“I thought it was great,” said Al Samji, general manager of the Howard Johnson Inn at Gasoline Alley.
“Coming to a session like this really opened up my eyes.”
Samji said he’s lived in Red Deer for seven years but hasn’t visited places like Ellis Bird Farm, Sunnybrook Farm Museum, and Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery. He expects the same is true of many other people in the hospitality sector.
“We get a lot of people who work in our industry who are not even from the country.”
Dylan Hopkins, a guest services agent at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel, agreed. A city resident for just one year, he now feels better equipped to respond to guest queries about what to see and do here.
“I’ve had quite a few customers come up to me and ask me about tourist spots, and I haven’t really been able to tell them which would be best for what they’re looking for.”
Stephanie Chasse, a front desk attendant at the Black Knight Inn, is from Red Deer. But she also learned some new things about the region — such as the extent of scheduled passenger service at the Red Deer Airport.
Chasse, Samji and Hopkins all said they picked up important customer service tips from Mowatt.
“It’s not enough just to do the bare minimum,” said Chasse. “Go that extra step to give them a little something extra.”
Liz Taylor, Tourism Red Deer’s executive director, said she was “thrilled” with the turnout at Friday’s event and plans to repeat it next year.
“People were really engaged,” she said of attendees, which included employees from hotels, restaurants, recreational facilities and the attractions themselves.
Her organization felt it was important to support the front-line staff who deal directly with tourists and other visitors, said Taylor.
“We wanted to give them some product knowledge and let them interact with the attractions and the experiences.”
The half-day workshop was free, with sponsors including the Red Deer Hotel Association and Travel Alberta. Those who attended received a Red Deer Expert pin and certificate.