TAMPA - What do a former airline employee, a college student and a well-traveled husband and wife have in common? They are all members of Tampa International Airport’s new Volunteer Ambassador Program.
The program kicked off July 16, just in time for the Republican National Convention, with the opening of four Visitor Information Centers located in the airport’s baggage claim areas. The information centers are part of the airport’s $30 million Main Terminal Modernization project and will be staffed by volunteers daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. So far, the team of more than 89 volunteers have assisted more than 3,300 passengers, providing information on everything from shuttles and rental cars to restrooms and airlines.
The volunteers come from all walks of life. Many speak foreign languages, including Spanish, German and French. Some are former airline employees. Others have a deep love for travel or simply volunteering.
“We have assembled an amazing group of people who are excited about working with the public and welcoming visitors to the Tampa Bay area,” said Chris Minner, Tampa International Airport’s Vice President of Marketing. “They all have knowledge, experiences and talents that will benefit our guests and become a reflection of a region that wants visitors to feel welcome as soon as they arrive.”
Elisa Fleites, who is preparing to study Psychology, is a Volunteer Ambassador who speaks Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and English. The airport, she said, is a perfect fit for fulfilling her desire to volunteer.
“Where else can you interact with people from so many different countries and cultures?” Fleites said.
Stan Hafers, a retired postal inspector, said that he loves the airport and looks forward to meeting new people.
“I used to travel a lot for work,” Hafers said. “But travel has changed, and it’s difficult for some people. If I can help them and make their day better, that’s a good thing.”
To prepare them for their new roles, Ambassadors participated in an orientation to learn about the airport and answers to common questions from arriving passengers. The local tourism agencies, Tampa Bay and Company and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, also briefed volunteers on points of interest around the region.
In exchange for their service, volunteers will be treated to “thank you” events and receive free airport parking year-round as long as they remain active in the program.
“All we ask for is a positive attitude and genuine interest in helping the customers,” said Kari Goetz, manager of the Volunteer Ambassador Program. “So many of our volunteers are travelers themselves and they have benefited from volunteers at other airports. It’s going to be great to see them return the favor.”
Those interested in joining the program can apply at tampaairport.com or call (813) 870-8759 for more information.