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Online hospitality training raises standard of tourist care across W.Va.

A new, free hospitality training program is available online. WV Welcome is a free course designed to help folks in the tourism industry better serve guests from out of state.

Jerry Henderson became an advocate for hospitality when she opened her own Bed and Breakfast about 20 years ago in Buckhannon.  She now serves as the treasurer of WV Hospitality and Travel Association and says knowing the best ways to be a gracious host is not only good for business, it’s good for the state.

WV Welcome is the result of collaboration between WVU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program; the state Department of Education’s HEAT program; the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association; and the WVU Extension Service. It’s an online, self-guided program geared toward training hospitality employers and their employees. It provides an introductory overview of the essentials of hospitality, such as how to put customers at ease, be personable, and proactively solve problems.

“Our goal is to provide the front-line employees of West Virginia in any hospitality venue, with all the training they would need to make every guest feel absolutely special and absolutely want to return to the great state of West Virginia.”

The training is available through the WVU Extension Service Online Community Learning system. Henderson explains there are 7 units that explore subjects like communication, how to deal with visitors, and what’s special about West Virginia.

“And I’m delighted to tell you that we’ve had nearly 800 people already go online for the training.”

Henderson hopes the training will become a standard requirement throughout tourist-related businesses in the state. She points out  the tourism industry makes up the third largest economic sector in West Virginia, supporting over 44,000 jobs with earnings of almost a billion dollars annually.

The training starts with a personal message from First Lady Joanne Jeager Tomblin.

“This lets people of WV know that hospitality training is important from the very top down to the front-line employees. She encourages them to take the program and she also encourages them to stay and work in WV. I think letting graduating seniors or those students in high school or colleges know that WV has jobs, and WV wants West Virginians to fill them is important.”

Henderson stresses that no employment requirement exists to participate in the training, and she hopes certification will improve an individual’s chances at landing a job in the industry.

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