Ambassador programme all go

Celebrating the launch of a new Wanaka Ambassador programme are (from left) Warbirds over Wanaka general manager Ed Taylor, Wanaka Community Board member Ross McRobie, Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore and Queenstown Resort College chief executive Charlie Phillips, holding the design for the badge that will be worn by the town's ambassadors. Photo supplied.
Celebrating the launch of a new Wanaka Ambassador programme are (from left) Warbirds over Wanaka general manager Ed Taylor, Wanaka Community Board member Ross McRobie, Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore and Queenstown Resort College chief executive Charlie Phillips, holding the design for the badge that will be worn by the town's ambassadors. Photo supplied.
Wanaka is following Queenstown's lead with the launch of an education initiative allowing locals to enhance the experience of visitors to the resort.

Queenstown Resort College (QRC) is introducing to Wanaka its Ambassador Programme, in which participants take a short, affordable course providing interesting and useful information on Wanaka's history, culture and offerings.

Once the course is completed, participants become part of the ''ambassador community'', wearing a distinctive black badge and representing Wanaka to the world by passing on information to visitors.

QRC chief executive Charlie Phillips said the course recognised visitors' value and gave participants a positive mind-set to help holiday-makers.

''Tourists' spending supports local businesses and in turn the local community. It's about respecting visitors, making a difference and focusing on the things that cost you nothing,'' Mr Phillips said.

The Wanaka Chamber of Commerce asked QRC to create an ambassador programme specific to Wanaka after its introduction in Queenstown in June 2013.

Chamber vice-chairman Andrew MacKenzie encouraged chamber members to take part in the programme so businesses could enhance staff knowledge.

''It doesn't have to be just for hospitality, accommodation and tourist workers. The programme is designed for those who have lived here for many years, through to those who have been here for only a few weeks, so they can share information about their home town with others,'' Mr MacKenzie said.

The Wanaka programme, backed by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Lake Wanaka Tourism, had its pilot launch on Wednesday. Weekly Wanaka Ambassador sessions start from January 29. Only one session is necessary to become an ambassador.

To date, 400 people have taken part in the Queenstown programme.