Gathered outside of the LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven, a mix of professional, retirees and folks just looking to learn more about tourism in Polk County watched as Mary Belyew became the first Certified Ambassador of Tourism and Sports - or CATS - graduate.
Learning About Polk County
The program, still in its first year, seeks to turn willing participants into living, breathing examples of all that Polk County has to offer. At the helm of the program is Savannah Rudolph, the Visitor Services Education Coordinator for Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing. While the classroom requirements are low, the extra-curricular work is as vast as the county itself.
“We only require someone attend one session,” said Rudolph. “The session also includes a guided walking tour of one of our attractions, and food. We always have food.”
Experiencing Polk County
Next, applicants must accumulate at least 15 points, gained through experiencing local places, events, activities and even shops and restaurants are included. Applicants also need to post items to social media and watch two online training videos and complete the accompanying quizzes. The program is part of Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing’s strategy to educate locals and industry professionals about things to see and do. Additionally, those who take the course, in turn, will educate others, including family, friends and visitors.
Rudolph says the interest in the course – promoted through flyers and Facebook – remains high.
“We haven’t had any problem filling classes,” she said. “In fact, the demand has been so high we’re trying to arrange night and weekend classes.”
Future Training Sessions
Included in the sessions so far has been downtown Lakeland, including Munn Park and Lake Mirror; Bok Tower Gardens, including the Holiday Home Tour and Pinewood Estates; Circle B Bar Reserve; Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium and the 34 Club; and the LEGOLAND Florida Resort. Rudolph, however, thinks the attractions are only part of the reason why people sign up.
“Genuinely, people want to find out what there is to do in Polk County,” she said. “Whether you work for the local chamber of commerce, at the front desk of a hotel or as a waitress, or just live here, you’ll find there is just as much to do here as there is anywhere else in Florida.”
For more information about the CATS program, visit here.