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by Matt Alderton | September 16, 2015
Richard "Rick" Smith (pictured), an information-desk volunteer at the Charles M. Schultz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, CA, has become the nation's 15,000th Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA), the Tourism Ambassador Institute announced last week.

"Growth of our CTA program has been gratifying," said Mickey Schaefer, president of Mickey Schaefer and Associates, whose Tourism Ambassador Institute develops CTA programs for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) nationwide. "DMOs  throughout the U.S. and internationally are recognizing that helping visitors experience the destination's many assets significantly contributes to their region's economy."

Created in 2006, the CTA program trains frontline hospitality employees and volunteers to work together to improve the visitor experience in destinations. To date, DMOs in 15 states have adopted CTA programs -- including Sonoma County Tourism.

"We are absolutely delighted that the 15,000th CTA is from Sonoma County," said Sonoma County Tourism President and CEO Ken Fischang. "The CTA program has been especially effective in reaching out to all corners of our destination community by empowering and connecting our front-line hospitality staff and businesses so they can better serve our 8 million annual visitors."

As part of their training, CTAs -- including frontline staff and executive managers who work in hotels, attractions, restaurants, government, and transportation, among other industries -- learn about their destination's history, geography, shopping, dining, and attractions while receiving instruction about how to best serve and interact with visitors to their community.

"We totally support the CTA principles," Fischang concluded, "and we look forward to a long and productive future with the Certified Tourism Ambassador program."