Originally created 03/24/06

Hotel clerks learn nuances of city to pass on to guests



In the battle for tourism dollars, hotel desk clerks stand on the front line.

Every day, Augusta visitors want to know how to spend their hard-earned green.

If a clerk hesitates, gives wrong directions or lacks suggestions, that's bad news for the local economy.

To combat this, the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau offers a whirlwind "familiarization" tour of Augusta attractions three times a year.

The most important comes right before Masters Week.

"What's that building?" asked Joyce Bennett, a guest representative at the Wingate Inn on Gordon Highway.

The building in question was the Enterprise Mill, which boasts one of Augusta's key attractions - tours of the Augusta Canal.

"Ooh, I'm learning so much," said Ms. Bennett, who moved to Augusta two years ago from New Jersey.

She and other hotel employees spent Thursday on the tour, which included the Augusta Canal, Georgia Golf Hall of Fame Botanical Gardens, downtown and other sites.

"We want as many people as possible on the front desk line to be aware of what there is to do here," said Jennifer Bowen, the visitor bureau's director of public relations.

Mandy Acosta, a sales manager at the Fairfield Inn on Boy Scout Road, has yet to experience all Augusta has to offer.

"That's why I did this," Ms. Acosta said at the botanical gardens. "I've been here four years and have not really seen a lot of stuff."

For instance, she had not visited any of the galleries on downtown's Artist's Row until Thursday.

Janice Allen, a representative at the Wingate, has lived in the area her whole life but was unaware of many of the new restaurants and shops downtown.

Now she will relay her findings to her guests during Masters Week.

The bureau tour was free, except for a $5 lunch fee, Ms. Bowen said.

Ms. Bennett believes she's better prepared to answer tourists' questions. And they do ask questions.

"Every day, all day," she said.

Reach Tony Lombardo at (706) 823-3227 or tony.lombardo@augustachronicle.com.