The Journey Through Hallowed Ground

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Certified Training Ambassador Program

Program Summary
By making each visitor experience extraordinary, heritage destinations and those who directly interact with visitors have the opportunity to profoundly impact a visitor’s travel experience and our community’s bottom line. Knowledgeable, responsive, and friendly interaction can positively affect a visitor’s decision to stay longer, leave singing the praises of their terrific experience, make return visits, and share their good experiences with others – each a critical ingredient for increased and enhanced tourism.

In recognition that tourism is one of the largest employers within the JTHG National Heritage Area —a region spanning four states from Gettysburg to Monticello, 180-miles long and 72-miles wide —the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership has developed the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Certified Tourism Ambassador program, which provides specialized training for anyone who interacts with visitors to help make that visitor’s experience more enjoyable, more seamless and more rewarding for all.

Graduates of the program will be well-versed in the professional standards of customer service as well as the many unique features found in the JTHG National Heritage Area, offering visitors ample reason to stay longer, spend more, return often, and recommend others to visit the region.

With the Commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War (2009-2015), the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership saw an opportunity to help its partners take advantage of the potential upswing in heritage tourism and secured funding to create and launch an extensive frontline hospitality training program. The JTHG Partnership sought and secured a $236,000 federal matching grant from Preserve America, which subsequently was matched by contributions from Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Tourism Council of Frederick County, and Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Program Development
Working closely with the convention and visitor bureaus and destination marketing organizations within the JTHG National Heritage Area, the JTHG Partnership issued a national RFP and selected Mickey Schaefer & Associates to tailor a nationally-recognized Certified Tourism Ambassador program to the specific needs of our partnering jurisdictions.

The JTHG Partnership additionally convened a series of focus groups, subject-matter expert panels, and field-testing workshops to gain valuable stakeholder input to include in the course curriculum and to ensure that this community program reflects community priorities and values.

The CTA hospitality program is a half-day interactive class, supported by extensive reading material. Classes are taught by JTHG Partnership staff and subsequently fellow CTAs, who already have completed their training. This ‘train-the-trainer’ element is a critical component to a self-sustaining program – one that is relevant and represents a current reflection of the communities within the JTHG National Heritage Area.

Once frontline personnel successfully complete the specialized, four-hour training course, they will be designated as a Certified Tourism Ambassador. This nationally recognized designation is subject to annual renewal, earned by visiting JTHG National Heritage Area attractions, touring local museums, attending CTA networking events, and patronizing local businesses, turning each CTA into both a patron and an ambassador of regional heritage tourism.

CTA’s are encouraged and given incentive to experience the rest of the heritage area firsthand. With access to an exclusive online database and network, the JTHG CTAs can get discounts to businesses along the Journey to personally see and experience partnering sites so they can recommend them from their personal experience.

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