Visit Quad Cities starts a new program to boost tourism in the region

Local News

Visit Quad Cities is launching a new Certified Tourism Ambassador program to improve pride and visitor traffic in the region.

Visit Quad Cities, the region’s destination management and marketing organization (DMMO), on Tuesday launched a Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) program for the area. Markets such as Anaheim, Louisville, Grand Rapids, Tucson, San Antonio, Door County, Oklahoma City, and many more have CTAs activated and have seen positive outcomes for their in-destination customer experience, according to Visit Quad Cities.

The CTA program is an industry-recognized certification accredited through the Tourism Ambassador Institute, that strategically aligns a community’s people infrastructure — community leaders, stakeholder businesses and the tourism front-line.  Administered at the local level, CTA is the only program to give an official designation to front-line employees, business owners, executives, government officials, and volunteers.

More than 50,000 people in the U.S. and Bermuda have been certified since the program’s inception in 2006, according to a Tuesday release. This is the most comprehensive tourism and service delivery program of its kind and will positively affect the QC hospitality industry through front-line training and certification for hotels, attractions, events, restaurants, and other assets in the Quad Cities. 

“Developing our in-destination experience and bringing customer-centric energy to add value is a leading priority for Visit Quad Cities,” said Dave Herrell, president/CEO of Visit Quad Cities.  “The Certified Tourism Ambassador Program is a proven model that can further activate and strengthen tourism while building brand champion depth.  We look forward to this process and working alongside our stakeholders as this is an integral part of our Destination Vision and Strategic Plan.”

Visit Quad Cities CEO Dave Herrell (File photo)

The Tourism Ambassador Institute, founded by Mickey Schaefer, president of Mickey Schaefer & Associates LLC, customizes the CTA program for each destination through research and collaboration, and will work closely with Visit Quad Cities.  As part of the build-out of the program, the first step is to engage local community-thought leaders Tuesday — who will meet over lunch at the QC Waterfront Convention Center — to help shape the direction of our program. Using this information, Schaefer & Associates LLC will design a specific curriculum for the Quad Cities.

“Having grown up a few hours from the QC, it’s a special privilege to bring the CTA program to your community,” Schaefer said in the Tuesday release. “Destination marketing and strategic planning often exclude the most important ingredient – the area’s People Infrastructure.  Placemaking, destination development, and brand alignment are best accomplished through a constant strategic connection among destination leaders, business stakeholders, residents, and the front-line that make it happen.  We applaud your forward thinking and being ahead of other destinations in bringing this prestigious certification program to your community.”

CTA programs have proven they strengthen talent retention and development in the hospitality space leading to improvements in customer satisfaction ratings and employee team morale, Visit Quad Cities said.  One of the objectives of certification is to increase regional tourism by inspiring front-line hospitality employees and volunteers to turn every visitor and resident encounter into a positive experience.

The CTA program is part of a broader strategy to create a standard of excellence with service delivery within the QC. Visit Quad Cities has made it a priority to build an even larger team of local brand champions to improve and enhance the in-destination experience.

The CTA program in the Quad Cities follows the launch of the new QC Pro initiative this summer.  The QC Pro initiative is to encourage all Quad Citizens to become more knowledgeable about the Quad Cities and to be further involved in tourism.  To get started, people can register for free at

Pride in the community and a welcoming spirit are essential to making visitors feel at home and effectively sharing our unique QC story, Herrell said. “Becoming a thriving visitor destination starts with a proud Quad Citizen mindset across all sectors of the population.”    

Over 50,000 CTAs have been certified since the founding of the Tourism Ambassador Institute in 2006. Find more information at

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