SPEDA launches free hospitality training for employees

Lake Cumberland Tourism director to lead course that focuses on delivering excellent customer service

SOMERSET, Ky. — Having an attraction that draws 4 million recreational visitors a year — more than Yellowstone National Park — underscores the need to go above and beyond to make sure those visitors are treated well. That’s why the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority is partnering with Lake Cumberland Tourism to offer free hospitality training to local employees, so the community can provide the best customer service possible to the people who fuel its No. 1 industry.

The training was originally planned for May but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two sessions will now be offered at Pulaski County Public Library: 9-11 a.m. EST Tuesday, July 21 and 1-3:30 p.m. EST Thursday, July 23.

“Tourism is our community and region’s largest industry and as we begin gradually reopening our economy, we realize the importance of hospitality training for employees now more than ever,” SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said. “SPEDA wants to ensure our businesses and their employees have the skill sets and training needed to put our best foot forward as a community. We want Somerset and Pulaski County to be a shining example of how to treat visitors as they begin to return to Lake Cumberland.”

In 2018, the latest tourism data available, visitors spent more than $119 million in Pulaski County, generating significant tax revenue and supporting more than 1,000 tourism-related jobs.

While the training is available to anyone locally who would like to attend, Girdler said it is targeted to front-line employees — those who work in hotel lobbies, retail, dining establishments, convenience stores or other positions that interact directly with visitors.

Lake Cumberland Tourism Executive Director Michelle Allen
Lake Cumberland Tourism Executive Director Michelle Allen

The training, led by Lake Cumberland Tourism Executive Director Michelle Allen, focuses on the basics of excellent customer service while teaching employees how to direct visitors to community events and attractions. Allen said the course will cover telephone etiquette, verbal and non-verbal communication, dealing with difficult customers, e-mail and social media etiquette, dressing for success and knowing the community.

“Many times, a visitor’s opinion of a community is made by their first interaction in it,” said Allen, who is also a member of SPEDA’s board of directors. “It’s crucial for us to shine in these situations. We want visitors to keep returning to Somerset and Pulaski County not only because they love our beautiful Lake Cumberland and all of the things to see and do here, but because we made them feel welcome and at home immediately.”

Girdler said he attended one of Allen’s hospitality training courses years ago when she delivered them for Tour Southern and Eastern Kentucky (TOUR SEKY).

“She is truly one of the best tourism professionals and trainers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and brings a wealth of experience to the table that all of us can learn from,” Girdler said. “SPEDA is thankful for Michelle’s service on our board of directors but even more so that she would take the time to conduct this training for our community.”

Girdler encouraged anyone who is a first port of call to visitors to attend.

“Every visitor is important, every impression is important and everything that allows a community to compete is important,” he said.

For more information or to RSVP, call (606) 425-5409 or e-mail SPEDA Chief Accounting Officer Jessica Carlton at [email protected].