Los Alamos County is offering free online training videos designed to help its employees, who interact with tourists and other visitors on a daily basis, to become experts in the County’s history, culture, attractions and services.
The Ambassador Training Program is an effort of the Los Alamos County Chamber of Commerce and the Los Alamos Lodgers’ Tax Advisory Board.
The County’s goal is to make every employee—and eventually, every resident—an ambassador for all of Los Alamos’ offerings, armed with the knowledge to provide accurate information and encourage visitors to stay and create their own positive experience in the county “where discoveries are made.”
“We’re always looking to improve the visitors’ experience, and visitors trust that the information they receive about Los Alamos from ‘locals’ – especially employees in our hotel, restaurant, and tourism industries – is accurate,” said Kelly Stewart, Marketing Specialist for Los Alamos County. “Based on visitor feedback, we have come to realize that many of those employees aren’t always aware of the services and attractions the County offers. Recognizing that those working in hospitality services are on call and strapped for time, we knew we had to create an easy-to-use training program that can be accessed at the work site and used as schedules allow. If a visitor’s interest is sparked because of the information provided, they will likely spend time visiting that attraction and potentially patronize Los Alamos businesses. We will be working with the Chamber of Commerce to encourage area businesses who rely on tourism dollars to utilize and support this free and invaluable service for their employees.”
In 2012, Los Alamos County employed Griffin and Associates Public Relations, Marketing, and Advertising firm to produce five marketing videos, each less than five minutes long.
The videos include information about: history of Los Alamos County; attractions; entertainment, shopping and dining; annual activities and events; and common misconceptions. A short quiz, developed by the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce, tests the participants’ retention.
The 16-person staff at Holiday Inn Express was one of the first in Los Alamos to complete the training videos and quiz. In fact, the hotel’s general manager has made it mandatory for front desk staff with direct contact with visitors, to watch the videos and take the quiz.
“The training videos are helpful tools because they are not only a conversation starter, but they empower us to provide our guests with accurate information about the area instead of relying on hearsay,” said Agatha Marquez, general manager at Holiday Inn Express and newly appointed chair of the Los Alamos Lodgers’ Tax Advisory Board. “That knowledge makes Holiday Inn more marketable to visitors who are not only looking for a warm bed to sleep in but want educated advice on what they should see to maximize their time here. Thanks to the videos, we can tell guests how far Bandelier National Monument dates back; or what the significance of Ashley Pond was in the Manhattan Project, for example.”
The Los Alamos Lodgers’ Tax Advisory Board is the group charged with advising the county administrator and Council on best use of the five percent tax revenues collected from local lodging establishments to attract visitors to Los Alamos County.
Los Alamos County encourages all tourism-industry employees who deal directly with tourists and visitors to watch the videos and take the quiz. Tourism industry employees include those who work at restaurants, hotels, shops and popular attractions, among others.
“Must see” attractions highlighted in the videos include:
- Bandelier National Monument—Evidence of human existence in Bandelier dates back as far as 11,000 years ago. Ancestral dwellings of ancient Pueblo Indians are scattered across a landscape of mesas and steep walled canyons throughout the 23,000 acre monument. Walking trails provide easy access to dwellings, including the Alcove House and Tsankawi Ruin, built between 1400 and 1600 AD, where petroglyphs and cavates are visible. Bandelier offers an evening ranger program, guided moonlit night hikes, and cultural demonstrations throughout the summer. Summer hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fees: $6 for 7-day entry. nps.gov/band/index.htm;
- Valles Caldera National Preserve—The 90,000 acre preserve dates back to ancient times, and is the result of a mountain that collapsed into the crater of a volcano more than 50,000 years ago. It is one of only three super volcanoes in the U.S., with mountain elevations as high as 11,000 feet. The 12-mile wide Caldera offers breathtaking views and is great for hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. During the summer, as many as 3,500 elk can be seen. The visitor center is open 7 days a week and most holidays. Visit vallescaldera.gov;
- Ashley Pond and the Icehouse Memorial—The Ice House Memorial marks the site where components of the first atomic weapons were built. Ashley Pond was named for Ashley Pond II, the founder of the Los Alamos Ranch School. Several of the 92 “Art in Public Places” sculptures can be seen at Ashley Pond while enjoying a picnic. Visit losalamoshistory.org for details;
- Pajarito Mountain—Situated on the east slopes of the Jemez Mountains, the Pajarito Plateau was created by runoff erosion followed by volcanic eruption. The area’s first settlers are thought to be ancestral Pueblo people who inhabited the area between 1150 AD and the 16th century. Ski Pajarito has 40 trails on 300 skiable acres with an elevation of 7,200 feet, and is not only a great place to ski but offers challenging mountain biking trails and breathtaking views via summer chairlift. Visit skipajarito.com;
- Bradbury Science Museum—For an in-depth and interactive exploration of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Bradbury offers a range of exhibits on the Laboratory’s history, its national security mission, and the broad range of exciting science research, and technology and engineering, including achievements in space science, energy, genomics, computing, medicine, and more. Free. Visit lanl.gov/museum; and
- Los Alamos Historical Museum—See award winning exhibits on the Manhattan Project and celebrated Ranch school, as well as area geology and history. Historic walking tours include a visit to the 1928-built Fuller Lodge, a landmark building designed by architect John Gaw Meem that served as hotel and gathering place during the Manhattan Project. Free. Visit losalamoshistory.org or call 505-662-6272 for details.
The videos also clarify several common misconceptions about Los Alamos including: Los Alamos’ secretive yet important role in the Atomic Age; the fact that the Trinity Test was completed at White Sands Missile Range and not in Los Alamos; that Los Alamos is the most culturally diverse community in New Mexico with residents from more than 80 countries; and more.
Several annual events and activities in the Los Alamos area are referenced including: Chamberfest; White Rock Film Series; Los Alamos Concert Association Series; the Summer Concert Series, Los Alamos Triathlon; Next Big Idea; Fuller Lodge Art Fair; Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl; and Midnight Snowshoeing on the Valles Caldera National Preserve.
A downloadable historic walking tour map, mentioned in the videos, is available on the Los Alamos Historic Museum website at: losalamoshistory.org/09walking%20tour.pdf.
The Ambassador Training Program is currently available online at: http://www.visit.losalamos.com/ambassador-training.htm.
Los Alamos County will award all business staff who successfully complete the course with a certificate of their status as a “Los Alamos Insider.” For more information on Los Alamos County, visit www.fyila.com.