CVB creating ‘Storytellers’ program

The Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau will soon unveil an Owensboro Storytellers program, providing training for frontline workers from hotels, restaurants and other places that deal directly with visitors.

The idea, Mark Calitri, CVB president, said, is to keep those people informed about what’s happening in the community so they’ll know how to answer, “What is there to do in Owensboro?”

Several years ago, tourism officials were shocked to learn that many of the frontline people answered that question with, “not much” or “nothing.”

“Hospitality is very important,” Candance Castlen Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday. “It’s something we should all be involved in when we meet someone from out of town. Whether it’s the gas station, the restaurant, the hotel, the little shop on the corner, we all need to be on the same page.”

She said, “There are so many things to do here. We need to know about them, so when someone asks what there is to do in Owensboro, we can tell them. We need to find out what they’re interested in. The chamber has been talking about this for a couple of years.”

Calitri said he and Dave Kirk, the CVB’s destination management director, recently visited Franklin, Tennessee, to study their Visit Franklin Ambassador Program.

“We want to call ours ‘storytellers’ rather than ‘ambassadors,’ ” he said. “They’ll be telling the community’s story to visitors.”

Calitri said he’s hoping to see a soft launch of the program in late October.

“We want to roll it out right,” he said. “We’re thinking about a lunch and trolley tour of downtown, traveling to several of the key stakeholders.”

That includes several attractions in the community.

Each session, Calitri said, will be limited to the number of people who will fit on the trolley.

The training, he said, is open to “anybody who has contact with visitors.”

The program is still in the planning stage, Calitri said.

Details of how people can enroll and dates will be announced later, he said.

In 2013, the CVB and the Owensboro Hospitality Association, an organization of businesses that were affected by tourism, began hospitality training.

But that program didn’t last too long.

The idea then was similar to the one now — to provide hospitality training to frontline workers.

Visit Franklin’s website says its program is designed for people “who want to become Franklin ‘experts’ to give visitors a good dose of southern hospitality.”

That’s similar to what the Owensboro program is planning.

Tourism is a growing business in Owensboro.

Last year, spending by tourists in Daviess County climbed 3% to $218.52 million, the Kentucky Department of Tourism said last month.