It’s been a little more than a year since the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures and the city of Port Alberni launched the free Alberni Valley Tourism Training Program, and project coordinator Genevieve Huneault is hoping to increase participation in the last few months of the program.
AVTTP has seen just over 200 in attendance, and has reached more than 20 businesses in town.
“I think that’s a really great reach,” said Huneault. “We’ve accomplished a really great social media following and we’re building relationships with tour operators here in Port Alberni.”
The training is targeted at front line workers in local stores, high school and university students, managers and business owners and people who interact with visitors. The training is completely free, and provides people with a chance to refine their customer service, marketing and communication skills, while learning a bit about Port Alberni, its history and its First Nations culture.
In its second year, the program is working to address delivery and accessibility. While previous sessions had set dates hosted at the Chamber of Commerce, Huneault said they are now promoting in-house programs for businesses, with a schedule that suits business owners and employees.
“We recognize that there’s sometimes a challenge with having a set date,” she said. “With the switch in delivery, it will be more accessible.”
In mid-February, the AVTTP will also be offering online courses for three of the four programs (Alberni Valley Tourism, Cultural Awareness and Social Media).
“It’s based on your own time, at the comfort of your own home,” said Huneault. “We want to increase the awareness and get that information out there.”
The online courses will still be engaging, with discussion portions either through the module or through a Facebook group. Online students will also still receive a certificate for each module they complete, as well as a $10 gift card to a local business for each module.
If you want to join the program, sooner is better than later. The program is part of a grant initiative that only stretches for 20 months. After the month of May, there is no guarantee that it will be offered or that it will be free of charge.
“We’re encouraging people to capitalize on it now,” said Huneault.
The modules usually require a minimum of 7-10 people, but Huneault said they can make arrangements for businesses that have fewer numbers.
“We’re flexible. We’re nice,” she laughed.
AVTTP will be hosting an information session at Char’s Landing on Thursday, March 8, featuring a free wine and cheese sampler, as well as a learning component. Stations will be set up with introductions to the different modules, and students will have a chance to meet instructors.
“It’s a less formal way of learning some of the content,” said Huneault.
Overall, Huneault said she wants to see this program have a benefit to the local community.
“We’re hoping that they’ll use these skills to aid visitors as they come through,” she said. “We want to develop that industry a bit, so people don’t just pass through.”