Volunteers to form city welcoming committee

Hospitality services bring a personal touch to greet Columbia’s tourists.
Sunday, August 3, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:48 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau wants to put a new face on the city, and it is turning to volunteers to make that happen.

The Columbia Hospitality Corps will be making its debut this week as Columbia’s newest volunteer program. The Convention and Visitors Bureau began the program to increase the number of staffed information tables at conferences and events in Columbia and staff the Lake of the Woods Visitors Center.

“The most important thing about the program is that it really gives a personal touch to our hospitality efforts,” said Lorah Steiner, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s not just brochures laying on a table.”

The Convention and Visitors Bureau promotes the city of Columbia as a destination for events, conventions, individual travel and group tours.

Steiner said the Office of Volunteer Services makes it possible for the Convention and Visitors Bureau to have the program. The bureau was unable to provide the necessary staff for the program, so the partnership allows volunteers to assume the role of ambassadors for the city.

“You’d be amazed at the questions you’d get,” Steiner said. People ask about everything from antique book binding to children’s gifts, and that information can’t always be found in a brochure.

“Having a staffed hospitality table is like having a concierge for the city,” Steiner said.

People in Columbia for a conference have free time but might not know the city if it’s their first visit. Steiner said volunteers can give restaurant recommendations, provide historical information or directions and answer questions to ensure a good experience in town.

Steiner said the hospitality booth is a well-received service that “really puts a great face on the city.”

The Convention and Visitors Bureau already has volunteers at local conferences and the Office of Volunteer Services has volunteers at Columbia Regional Airport. However, the Hospitality Corps will now staff those events and help with others, such as expositions, athletic events and alumni events.

Leigh Nutter, volunteer coordinator for the city of Columbia, said that so far 10 people have expressed interest in the group, and she expects more to respond by Tuesday.

“If we have a dozen at this particular meeting we would consider that successful,” Nutter said.

Volunteers will be expected to commit four hours a month to the program, with incentives for those who can do more, Nutter said. Participation points can be earned by volunteers and put toward quarterly drawings for rewards such as gift certificates, lunches or trips to the lake.

Steiner said volunteers will also have a quarterly luncheon with ongoing educational components about Columbia tourism at each session. She believes that once the program is started there will be high interest in it.

For more information, you can attend the meeting at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Boone Tavern or call 874-7499 for more information.

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