MARYSVILLE — The Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce sees the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver as an opportunity not only to benefit from tourist dollars in the relative short term, but also to gain repeat customers in the long run, which is why they’re seeking funds for programs intended to help them capitalize on this opportunity.
Chamber President and CEO Caldie Rogers is aiming to increase staffing and training for the Chamber Visitor Information Center, as well as to translate local tourist information into a number of foreign languages.
Rogers and John Bonner, executive director for corporate training and continuing education at Everett Community College, also hope to get as many local businesses as possible involved in the SuperHost Fundamentals training program, which was originally designed for Olympic-level events.
“Of course, we want to capture the revenue of the 40,000 extra road trips a day along the I-5 corridor, who will be visiting our community and hopefully leaving their dollars behind,” Rogers said. “But we also want them to come back and to tell others about us, in ways that might even get people interested in relocating their businesses and residences here.”
Rogers cited research showing that tourism is poised to replace manufacturing as the primary economic base for the country, at the same time that she described Washington as affording tourism among the lowest levels of funding of any of the states. According to Rogers, the Washington state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development informed the Chamber that CTED would not be able to fund any program along the lines of SuperHost due to budget deficits.
“The state has even given forewarning that visitor information centers will be charged for maps now,” Rogers said.
Rogers touted the benefits of SuperHost by using the state of Montana as an example, recalling how its timber and manufacturing suffered as a result of environmental regulations designed to bolster the depleted brown bear population. She credited Everett Community College President David Byer with using SuperHost to replace its previous primary industries with the tourism trade and called him “Mister SuperHost.”
While Everett Community College is offering SuperHost training to local businesses, Bonner noted that the cost of doing so runs into the thousands of dollars, to which Rogers added that the vast majority of local businesses have 10 employees or less. Rogers explained that the Chamber is seeking funding from a number of potential sources, including the city of Marysville and Snohomish County, to help offset these costs. She identified that the hotel/motel fund has reserve dollars left over, of which she’d like to see $10,000 used for program development, with another $10,000 being put toward “scholarships” for the training of local businesses, in a one-time increase to the Chamber’s 2010 Visitor Information Center Contract.
SuperHost Fundamentals is an internationally recognized program, designed to increase repeat sales, resolve customer complaints, heighten employee responsibility and improve employee retention. Bonner noted that any business which puts 60 percent of its employees through the eight-hour SuperHost training becomes a SuperHost-registered businesses, and added that the SuperHost program originated in Canada, thus making it a familiar brand for customers will be coming to the local area from north of the border.
“It shows people how to satisfy customers, make those customers loyal and make their experiences a ‘Wow’ that they’ll tell other people about,” Bonner said. “It’s not about extraordinary things as much as it’s about handling the ordinary in an extraordinary way, from how you greet your customers to how you anticipate their needs. A test follows the training, after which those who pass get SuperHost pins. Not only does this engender a sense of pride in the employees, it also lets the customers know that these people are invested in them.”
Tulalip Resort Casino President and COO Ken Kettler praised the SuperHost program. The Tulalip Resort Casino has already put two of its managers through the program and Kettler expects “hundreds more” of their employees to go through it.
“We’re all about customer service,” Kettler said of the Tulalip Resort Casino, which recently received AAA’s Four Diamond award. “We’re already strong in this area, but it’s always good to augment those services and think about what different customers need. We’re used to Pacific Northwest locals, but we’ll be getting a new clientele with a lot of international guests.”
With Vancouver already reaching its visitor occupancy limits, Kettler is looking to arrange daily bus trips from the Tulalip Resort Casino to Vancouver during the Olympics, especially since transportation on the streets of Vancouver will only be possible by bus at that time. He sees the Chamber Visitor Information Center, located in Quil Ceda Village, as an invaluable resource for the community to make “a once-in-a-lifetime first impression” on many visitors.