To the editor:
The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and our travel industry partners work hard every day to lure travelers to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, but getting them here is only half the goal. After they arrive, we must make sure their experiences are good ones so they return and encourage their friends and families to visit too. No group works harder to do just that than the 120 volunteers who don bright, floral shirts and answer the endless stream of traveler questions at the Southwest Florida International Airport visitor information booths.
This energetic group of customer-service specialists greets visitors coming and going from RSW in the busy corridors and at five, information-packed booths. Sometimes the questions are as simple as "How do I get to my gate?" or "Where can I get something to eat?" Equally often, the questions delve into the destination's offerings: "Where can I go to see a dolphin?" "How big is the pool at my hotel?" "Where's the best place to go shelling?" "How do I get to my hotel and where can I buy groceries on the way?"
The volunteers are armed with two resources to help them answer every question: a plethora of printed and electronic resources and valuable, hands-on training. Each of the booths is stocked with Lonely Planet Visitor Guides, maps, brochures, resource lists, schedules and other collateral materials. They also have iPads to access additional information from apps and the Internet. And when they aren't working a booth, the volunteers are getting to know Lee County better on product education trips to destination properties, attractions and assets.
Most questions take just three to four minutes to answer. Others are a little more involved. But according to longtime volunteer Terri Krass, the reaction of travelers is often the same.
"You can just tell by the looks on their faces that they need something, so we ask them if we can help and then they're just stunned to have someone help them that way," said Krass, a snowbird who's volunteered her time each winter since 2005.
The same group of volunteers also staff information booths at Hammond Stadium and JetBlue Park during spring training games. The interaction they have with our visitors sends a strong message to our visitors that Lee County is an inviting, friendly community and it might just influence their experience enough to return.
So, the next time you take in a baseball game, or are rushing to catch a plane, I encourage you to take the time to stop and thank these volunteers for the important role they play in our destination promotion.