TUSAYAN, Ariz. — After hearing research from Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce manager Laura Chastain, the town council agreed to support an ambassador program designed to boost spending and customer service in Tusayan.
Ambassador programs are designed to arm visitors with information — not just about the national park, but also about the gateway communities in close proximity. Chastain said the ambassadors will be stationed at shuttle bus stops during peak hours (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during high season) and will be able to provide critical information, such as obtaining a park pass, as well as information about local businesses, restaurants and hotel vacancies.
Chastain said the main function of the program is to improve the guest experience in Tusayan by providing them with the information they need, which is especially helpful with all of the road construction going on in the park. Chastain said the Chamber is pushing for guests to park in Tusayan and take the shuttle into the park to cut down on traffic congestion – especially large vehicles and RVs, for which there is already very limited parking on the South Rim.
“People were standing and waiting 20 minutes for a shuttle, only to find out that they needed a park pass to ride it into the park,” Chastain said. “With an ambassador to provide information, they could have purchased a pass and been back in time to catch the bus.”
Chastain said another benefit of the program may be increased business for local establishments. Staff will be trained on providing information about restaurants, gift shops and, perhaps more importantly, rooms at local hotels.
“I was attending a meeting and an employee from Kingman said they were sending guests to Williams or Flagstaff because they thought there was no way there was going to be any room at the South Rim,” Chastain said. “We have rooms, and I think letting people know that may increase the amount of walk-ins at the hotels, which has been falling the past few years.”
As for staff, Chastain is hoping to recruit students from Northern Arizona University (NAU) who are planning on earning a degree in hospitality management. The students, who must complete 1,200 hours of hospitality-related service hours before being awarded their degree, would rideshare from Flagstaff each day. Chastain said the partnership will not only help produce well-prepared hospitality graduates but will result in employees who are excited about providing great customer service. Chastain is also hoping to recruit a small pool of local workers who may be able to fill in on their days off.
Additionally, Chastain said she plans on recruiting students from different countries of origin who are studying at NAU on F1 student visas. This will allow better communication with foreign visitors who may not speak English well or at all.
“It’ll really improve guest service for the area,” she said. “Feedback from Estes Park (a gateway community for Rocky Mountain National Park) tells us it really does enhance the visitor experience.”
Chastain quoted research that indicated about 40 percent of visitors request better customer service, and nearly 70 percent say their buying behavior is based on how they feel they were treated. More importantly, Chastain said, while a guest will tell nine people if they had a great experience, he or she will tell 16 people if they had a lousy experience.
Council member Al Montoya supported the project.
“I think is a great idea,” he said. “It’s an enormous service for our guests and it encourages them to leave good remarks about our town.”
Mayor Craig Sanderson also said the program would be a good opportunity to enhance the visitor experience for both Tusayan and Grand Canyon National Park.
The council approved support for the program up to $65,000, which will include salaries and equipment.
Lighting along Long Jim Loop Road
The council also authorized a lighting design study and authorized the town manager to explore options for installing street lighting along Long Jim Loop Road near the sports complex and in residential areas. Council members expressed concerns about the roadway being unsafe for foot travel because of the darkness.
“That’s where a lot of our workforce walks to get to work,” said Vice Mayor Becky Wirth. “I’ve seen a lot of vehicles speeding through the area.”
One of the main goals of the project is to provide lighting so children can safely walk to and from the basketball courts at the sports complex, with a long term goal of lighting the entire loop through the residential area.
APS representative Kevin Hartigan gave the town two options — APS can install and maintain lighting, or the town can purchase its own lighting equipment outright, have it installed by APS, and pay a lower monthly fee.
The council authorized a lighting design study by APS to determine how many lights may be needed, the impact they will have on dark skies and residents and any easements that may be needed.
Council member David Chavez suggested the town also look at other options, such as off-grid solar lighting.
Tusayan resident Clarinda Vail, who also agreed the area is not safe, suggested the town hold off on installing lighting until the proposed Tusayan Trail system addresses what lighting will be included in the master plan.
Council to negotiate contract with Williams Justice Court
The town council authorized the town manager to begin negotiations on a new contract with the Williams Justice Court, which currently provides court services for the town via teleconference and monthly court dates.
Judge Rob Krombeen, who serves as Justice of the Peace for the Williams precinct (which includes Tusayan) said since he began presiding over cases five years ago, the number of warrants and subsequent arrests for failure to appear dropped dramatically.
The current contract expires at the end of June. Krombeen asked the council to consider a 10-year contract for services at $15,000 per year, which covers the direct cost of processing Tusayan cases by his staff. Additionally, he also asked for a small budget to improve services.
“IT improvements such as the video link are essential,” he said. “Domestic violence victims can get an immediate protective order against their assailants instead of having to travel to Williams or Flagstaff, which isn’t always possible.”
Krombeen also asked the town to consider officially appointing him as magistrate for the town, a service which he already provides, to be in compliance with Arizona statutes requiring a two or four year appointment.