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he new center, staffed

by CVB volunteers, is

targeted toward enhanced customer service

by Kristin Kubitschek

Coming in July, visitors flying in to Springfield will be greeted with a warmer welcome than usual as the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau debuts its new Visitor Information Center at the Springfield/Branson Regional Airport.

Partnering with the airport to deliver customer service and area information, the two agencies have worked hand-in-hand since December to see their plans become reality this summer.

After last year's airport study, the Airport Board identified customer service as one of its primary goals for the year the concept of an information center soon became a top priority.

The Airport Board approached the Convention and Visitors Bureau and proposed the two agencies join together on the project.

The two soon began to lay the groundwork for the new center. With the airport bearing the one-time construction expense of approximately $15,000, and the CVB providing volunteers to staff the center, the partners, and the thousands who go through the airport each year, are about to see the fruit of their labor.

Located adjacent to the airport's restaurant, the visitor information center will have high visibility to both incoming and outgoing traffic. Travelers will be able to get general airport information, as well as maps and information on area accommodations, restaurants and attractions, meeting the goals of both agencies.

Staffed during peak times by CVB volunteers, the center is a 150-square-foot area where brochures and other local information will be available around-the-clock. Two touch-screen kiosks which feature tourist information, local government information and Internet access to weather forecasts and other sites will be built into the counter of the center.

Leigh Branson-Daniels, the airport's marketing director, said that many larger airports provide services of this kind through "ambassadors," who usually roam the airport assisting travelers. She said that for the size of Springfield's airport, it is going beyond the call of duty to offer the Visitor Information Center.

"Our airport is smaller and (the center) is usually not a priority, but with our location and region, it's more important and something really needed," she said, referring to the number of people who use the Springfield/Branson Regional Airport to access nearby communities.

While the CVB is anxious to reach the business traveler, something it rarely sees at its Tourist Information Center and home office located at Highway 65 and Battlefield, it will also continue to assist the leisure traveler.

"We are anxious to make Springfield more 'travel-friendly' and expose travelers to what the area has to offer," said Tracy Kimberlin, the CVB's executive director. The first few months the volunteers will track the number of visitors and frequently asked questions.

"We want to know what we can do to meet their needs and will use the Visitor Information Center to obtain that information," Branson-Daniels said.

Both agencies realize that they are testing the waters to see what visitors' greatest needs are.

With service to visitors a common goal, both businesses are complementary to each other, as a strong partnership has developed to promote the same goal.

At the heart of the center are the dedicated volunteers who will staff it and assist travelers during peak travel hours. "It wouldn't be possible without the volunteers, since neither business has the staff or the finances to make it happen. We hope they are as excited to work at the airport as they are at the Tourist Information Center," Branson-Daniels said.

According to Barbara Poage, Tourist Information Center supervisor, they are. "Our volunteers are enthusiastic about sharing Springfield at both locations. Although most people are familiar with Branson, Springfield has a lot more to offer than they realize."

The CVB has housed the Tourist Information Center at its Battlefield-and-65 location since April of 1990. Distributing thousands of pieces of information to current and potential visitors each year, the volunteers take assisting visitors and selling Springfield to heart.

Although more than 80,000 tourists stop by the TIC each year, the business traveler is a rare sight at this location.

The airport's Visitor Information Center will initially be staffed by CVB volunteers 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; and noon-3:00 p.m. Sunday. The hours may change with flight schedules to reflect peak travel times.

For more information about the Visitor Information Center, or other travel and tourism information, please call the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 881-5300.

(Kristin Kubitschek is communications coordinator for the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.)[[In-content Ad]]

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