Honouring our visitor information service gems

Ammy Awards 2015 statues

Named for Alberta’s official gemstone, ammolite, Ammy Awards honour visitor information centre staff who embody Alberta’s warmth and hospitality through inspired approaches to meeting visitors’ needs. The 5th annual awards were presented at the Alberta Visitor Information Providers (AVIP) Conference held in Lethbridge on September 29.

Choosing the winners for the 2015 Ammy Awards wasn’t easy for this year, as visitor information centres across the province continued to improve services with thoughtful ways to help visitors, and inventive promotion and training strategies. Organizations that manage Alberta’s more than 130 community, regional and provincial visitor information centres submitted a record number of nominations. Five winners were selected from 15 finalists in the following categories:

Visitor Service Excellence

Best in Class – Visitor Services

St. Albert Visitor Welcome Centre

St. Albert Visitor Welcome Centre staff, Molly, delivering ‘i’ cookies and postcards for visitors at the St. Albert Inn and Suites.

St. Albert Visitor Welcome Centre staff, Molly, delivering ‘i’ cookies and postcards for visitors at the St. Albert Inn and Suites.

As a new visitor information centre, the St. Albert Visitor Welcome Centre achieved a number of innovative approaches—too many to mention here—that promoted its products and diverse services available to the community, tourism operators and visitors. Some examples include: providing picnic tables and children’s toys at the centre, a mobile visitor information centre set-up at major local events, and a scavenger hunt to promote their presence in the community. A particularily yummy idea was to give locally made cookies and postcards promoting the centre’s location to hotels and campgrounds in the area.

Operational Excellence
Best in Class – Hiring and Training

TA Canmore

The Canmore Visitor Information Centre team stays cool standing on the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefield.

Canmore Visitor Information Centre

Hiring seasonal staff is an ongoing challenge in Canmore, so managers applied new techniques such as targeted ads to local university students looking for summer employment and an internship program with Bow Valley college. The successful recruitment campaign was followed by a series of creative ways to train the new team. This included providing staff with some of experiences the region has to offer, and a five-day training program with 109 local tourism businesses and operators in to learn about what’s available for visitors.

Best in Class – Innovation

Emily at Banff Ave Square

A Banff travel counsellor helps visitors in a busy part of town at a pop-up kiosk.

Banff Lake Louise Tourism

By examining the areas of improvement and leveraging various visitor touch-points to further develop, connect and influence the visitor’s experience, staff connected with visitors that they wouldn’t have otherwise. The placement of a pop-up information kiosk at high density locations in town resulted in 8,701 additional contacts outside the centre—representing eight per cent of all visitor engagements this summer provided by the centre. This drove much more tourism business to the community and provided more timely and relevant information to visitors.

Individual Excellence

Best in Class – Leaders in Visitor Information Centre Management

Catherine Fournier, Stony Plain & District Visitor Information Centre

Catherine Fournier receives her award, presented by Yvette Ng, Executive Director, Destination Development and Visitor Services Branch, Alberta Culture and Tourism

Catherine Fournier receives her award, presented by Yvette Ng, Executive Director, Destination Development and Visitor Services Branch, Alberta Culture and Tourism

Catherine Fournier’s passion for helping visitors stretches beyond the walls of the town’s visitor information centre into the community. Her leadership skills and strategic thinking has resulted in cross-marketing initiatives between the centre and local businesses as well as increasing the centre’s value to the community. As a manager, she and her team successfully engaged more visitors online and scored 99 percent for customer service from an accredited mystery shopper. Catherine was also instrumental in securing municipal funding for the centre and consequently increased its budget significantly for the next three years.

Best in Class – Travel Counselling

Erin Alexander, Stony Plain & District Visitor Information CentreAmmy Awards 2015 Erin

With a great passion for travelling comes a genuine willingness to assist visitors in planning that memorable experience. Erin brings a positive “can-do” attitude in everything she does, including her leadership role in connecting with visitors through social media. Through her efforts, the centre’s online presence and engagement improved significantly throughout the summer.

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