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Experience Olympia & Beyond Announces the Thurston Tourism Ambassador Program

Thurston County, Wash. August 28, 2020 - Starting this fall, Thurston County will have a new program that trains anyone - from frontline hotel staff, museum workers, and restaurant servers - to answer visitors' questions about things to do and see in our region. Once trained, these individuals will be Certified Tourism Ambassadors. Experience Olympia and Beyond has formed a partnership with the National Tourism Ambassador Institute® (TAI) to train hospitality workers and community leaders to become well-informed, enthusiastic advocates for their region. TAI is the Certified Tourism AmbassadorTM (CTA) industry-recognized certification program's oversight entity. Since the program's inception in 2006, over 50,000 individuals have been certified as CTAs in 18 U.S. states and Bermuda, involving over 100 Convention Visitor Bureaus.
"We are excited to launch the Thurston Tourism Ambassador Program, which will allow those already passionate about the region to become expert tourism guides and remain excited about such a resilient and strong community amid a challenging time," says Shauna Stewart, CEO of Experience Olympia & Beyond. "Our research shows that we can promote our region more effectively when we empower people in the community working in places where visitors already are."

The program has a multi-faceted curriculum that helps increase tourism by inspiring hospitality professionals and community members to turn every visitor encounter into a positive experience. When visitors have a positive experience, they are more likely to return and share their experiences with others. Everyone benefits - the visitor, the industry, the local economy, the hospitality professional and the community.

Kathleen Thomas, Director of the Office of Event Services at Saint Martin's University, participated in a beta test in August. "I feel more confident in my knowledge of the area and realized how much I didn't know. It's a great learning opportunity," said Thomas.

Experience Olympia & Beyond has also partnered with key regional organizations, such as the Port of Olympia and Leadership Thurston County, whose staff and students will receive some of the inaugural classes. Three virtual classes are scheduled now through the end of the year for those interested in participating in the program. The course registration fee includes an ambassador handbook, frameable certificate of completion, lapel pin and enrollment in the CTA "Freebies & Discounts" program redeemable at area restaurants and attractions.

Experience Olympia & Beyond will be holding a FREE information session about the Thurston Tourism Ambassador program on September 23. You can register here:

For more information on the program and a list of available classes, visit


About Experience Olympia & Beyond
Experience Olympia & Beyond is the official destination marketing organization of Thurston County and Thurston County's Sports Commission. A naturally-inspired, approachable destination situated at the foot of Puget Sound one hour south of Seattle and two hours north of Portland by car, Washington's capital community inspires handcrafted getaways. The region is perfect for hosting sports events, meetings, weddings and events. With more than 2,700 hotel rooms throughout Thurston County there are several options ranging from unique bed and breakfasts to traveler-friendly rooms. For more information visit or connect on Facebook, Twitter (@Experience_Oly) and Instagram (@ExperienceOly).

About TAI and CTA
The Tourism Ambassador Institute® (TAI) is the oversight entity for the Certified Tourism AmbassadorTM industry-recognized certification program. The institute, founded by industry veteran Mickey Schaefer, FASAE, CAE, CTA, customizes the CTA program for each destination through research and collaboration with the local CVB Accredited Provider and key stakeholders. Community engagement and alignment focuses businesses on enhancing the experience for visitors and residents; with the hospitality sector, local government, economic development, and more working together. Schaefer also founded The EXPERIENCE Institute® (TEI) to help destinations measure and shape the total visitor experience against the industry's first-ever consumer-driven standards developed by TEI. The Experience Dedicated® Destination (EDD) program brings the standards to life through ongoing mobile surveys and community alignment to the power of tourism.

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