Groups test hospitality training in Tupelo

Want to volunteer to be a “guinea pig” for the next downtown hospitality training program? Call the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau at (662) 841-6521 or the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association at (662) 841-6598. The training is free and will educate you about things to do in downtown Tupelo.

TUPELO – Think there’s nothing to do in Tupelo? Two organizations are out to prove you wrong.
The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association has partnered with the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau to provide hospitality training to the people most likely to encounter tourists.
The training is aimed at groups such as restaurant hosts and wait staff, front desk clerks at hotels, retail salespeople and employees at area attractions.
The two groups did a test run of the program, called Hospitality Training 101, in March and spent almost eight hours exploring the CVB and downtown restaurants, businesses, tourist attractions and points of interest.
The goal, according to Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association Executive Director Debbie Brangenberg, is to teach people about “all the things to do downtown and within walking distance.”
Linda Butler Johnson, the CVB’s executive director, said the bureau reaches out to tourists, but once they leave, they are in the hands of the community.
Because of that, she said it’s important that the people who interact most with out-of-town visitors know answers to common questions, such as directions to the Elvis Presley Birthplace and recommendations for dining options.
Brangenberg said, “We want them kind of like a concierge at a hotel where they are in the know.”
The groups want to avoid the situation where tourists eat at a restaurant, ask their server what there is to do in town and the server responds with “nothing.”
“We take it for granted about what there is to do,” Brangenberg said.
During the first tour, the 12 participants spent the afternoon on a walking and driving tour of downtown visiting retailers, restaurants and points of interest. The owners made presentations about their businesses and their specialties.
The free training is still in the planning and testing stage. Johnson and Brangenberg plan to have another trial class in a month or so and will condense the program to about five hours.
Right now, the training is targeting front-line workers downtown, but the two women see the program growing.
“There are a lot of people who work downtown,” Brangenberg said. “It would be great if they could at least learn what’s down here.”

Carlie Kollath/Daily Journal

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