PennDOT has taken steps to enhance one of its premier customer service missions, its 14 Keystone Welcome Centers, by instituting a Travel and Tourism Certification Program for its team of 54 Tourist Information Counselors. The Travel and Tourism Certification Program was established to promote high quality travel information services and enhance the personal efforts, skills and achievements of Pennsylvania's Tourist Information Counselors who direct and advise travelers seeking assistance.
Tourism Services Manager, Tiffany Brown, has participated in national meetings where tourism counselor training certification programs were discussed, and she knew Tourist Information Counselors at the Welcome Centers were interested in having a similar program in Pennsylvania.
She and Welcome Center Manager, Megan Hakes, developed a blueprint and moved ahead even in the face of challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 20-plus hours of training were offered virtually and included information on:
- Immersion in the Pennsylvania Byways program
- Map reading
- Planning and developing travel itineraries
- Heritage areas
- Historic trails
- National Register of Historic Places
- Geography of Pennsylvania
As part of the training, Hakes developed project assignments, such as planning itineraries for a party of eight travelers. Such planning involved looking at different heritage areas of Pennsylvania.
A virtual graduation ceremony, including the bestowing of special pins, is scheduled for later this summer.
"What we learned, we will incorporate in our everyday work," she said. "It was a great learning tool for us. I enjoyed it, and it was something to stretch my knowledge and education."
Tatalone added that meeting and helping travelers is her favorite part of the job.
"Some come in lost, some are kind of panicked, and some don't have a destination. To be able to take time and highlight the different areas of the state, travelers are always so happy they're in Pennsylvania."