Hundreds of locals become 'tourism ambassadors' to tell others about Livingston
Jennifer Eberbach, Livingston Daily
January 10, 2024
LIVINGSTON COUNTY — Visitors to Livingston County may run into one of more than 200 locals who've been trained to make their experience positive.
Just over a year ago, Explore Brighton Howell Area — the county's visitor's bureau — launched a Certified Tourism Ambassador Program to make the county more tourist friendly. The half-day certification program, held about once a month at locations around the county, provides information about attractions, businesses, and local history to pass along to out-of-towners.
It works as a model of customer service for those on the front-line of local tourism, like hospitality industry professionals, restaurant workers, and chamber of commerce representatives. Program organizers say it's also appealed to a wide range of locals, including police officers, community organizers, educators, real estate agents, and elected officials.
"The main goal is to align the community in support of making sure tourists feel comfortable and want to come back," said program manager Caroline Emery.
"Visiting friends and relatives is actually one of the biggest sections of tourism," she said of Livingston County. "It’s building experiences for people so they want to come back here."
The certification program is accredited through the National Tourism Ambassador Institute and customized to promote what's special about Livingston. Participants start with a 200-plus-page folder with background on county tourism, local history, important figures, resources and more.
"It’s just little things you can do to make our area stand out, because you’re representing our area," Emery said. "One bad experience can ruin everything."
The bureau's executive director, Mary Robinson, said one end goal is to support the local economy through tourism.
"We definitely want to drive more visitors, meetings and events to our area, and for everyone to have a positive experience so they tell everyone," she said.
Tourists and visitors spend more than $312 million a year in the county on things like lodging, dining, shopping, recreation, and transportation, according to a 2022 report from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Local tourism also generates about $38 million in state and local tax revenue.
The next two certification classes are set for 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29, at Hampton Inn Howell, and 8 a.m.-12 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at the Livingston Educational Service Agency.
Register at explorebrightonhowellarea.com/brighton-howell-area-cta-program. There's a one-time $25 application fee and a $10 fee to renew the certification on an annual basis.