(November 2, 2017) Wearing distinctive red or blue shirts and broad smiles, TPA’s volunteer ambassadors are the friendly faces in baggage claim who greet visitors to the Tampa Bay area, answering questions on everything from ground transportation to dining and entertainment options.
And thanks to TPA’s partnership with Visit Tampa Bay and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the Airport’s 200-person strong volunteer team can speak from first-hand experience about a range of museums, wildlife centers, breweries and cultural attractions throughout Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Twice-a-year “familiarization tours” for volunteers have taken them to Pinellas beaches, Busch Gardens, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Dunedin Art Center, Tampa History Museum, the Riverwalk and the Yuengling Brewery.
In late October, the volunteers met with Visit St. Pete/Clearwater staff and got an in-depth tour of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg.
“Arts are an economic engine for the region,” John Collins, Executive Director of the St. Pete Arts Alliance, told the group at the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater offices before they boarded a bus for the Dali tour. “The Dali Museum alone has a $140 million economic impact on the Tampa Bay area.”
The volunteers, many whom have been with TPA since the beginning of the Ambassadors program five years ago, say the Visit Tampa Bay and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater tours are both a fun group outing and a way to learn more about the attractions they pitch to arriving tourists. The tours are different each year, typically focusing on new art exhibits, visitor and history centers and parks.
The familiarization tours are just one of several ways TPA partners with Visit Tampa Bay and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater to help drive travelers and tourism dollars to the region. Getting an up-close look at what the area has to offer gives TPA’s volunteer meeters and greeters expertise about some of the cultural hidden gems of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
“We always like to be a part of these tours,” said Tampa retiree Lena Collins, who along with her shift “volunteer-mate” Ann Marie Draper participated in last week’s tour. “We learn something new every time.”
For the local tourism bureaus, it’s one more way to keep spreading the word about the huge range of entertainment offerings throughout the region. For TPA, it’s an enriching education for its volunteers, who are often the first point of contact for arriving visitors.
“Our volunteers serve such a valuable role in being the welcoming face of Tampa Bay to our new guests,” TPA Director of Guest Services Brenda Geoghagan said. “While they’re knowledgeable about the area, these partnerships and tours with Visit Tampa Bay and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater create personal experiences around the region that they can then pass on to our visitors.”