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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2006
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Visitors bureau tours help hotel clerks sell Decatur

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com· 340-2432

Nicole Bolden hears the inevitable questions like “What is there to do in Decatur?” or “Where’s a good place to eat?” almost daily.

Bolden, a front office manager/sales clerk for Courtyard by Marriott-Decatur, admitted she often didn’t have an answer for her guests’ questions.

“It’s hard to recommend something when you don’t know anything about it,” Bolden said.

“Usually the first question leads to more questions like: What does the restaurant serve or what are the prices like?”

The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau solved Bolden’s problem with its bi-annual FAM (short for familiarization) tour. Each spring and fall, the bureau gives tours of Decatur for local hotel and motel employees.

“This allows them to give an honest recommendation (to any visitor’s question),” said Squee Bailey, sales coordinator and tour leader for the bureau.

The bureau held the second of two fall tours Wednesday. The group saw Cook’s Natural Science Museum, Point Mallard Park, Old State Bank, the Carnegie Visual Arts Center, Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts, Ingalls Harbor and the Jack Allen Recreation Complex.

The 20 participants ate at Curry’s and shopped on Second Avenue and Bank Street. They got a guided tour of Old Decatur and Albany historic districts.

Best Western General Manager Janssen Parrish said the tours are mutually beneficial for the tourism bureau and the hotels. The Old Bank Building particularly intrigued him.

“I’m very strong into history, and often a conversation with a guest will end up in a discussion about what the area has to offer about local history,” Parrish said.

“Now I know where I can send them.”

Julianne Lowman, marketing consultant for Point Mallard and the Decatur Parks and Recreation Department, spoke to the group about the park and golf course.

She said front desk clerks are the first people many visitors talk to when they come to Decatur.

“They can dispel myths and educate our visitors about what we really have to offer,” Lowman said.

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