So far in 2018, more than 250 partners along the Coast have earned an internationally accredited guest service training certification, most using the state’s customized Guest Service Gold Tourism: Oregon. This customized course, was created in partnership with Travel Oregon, the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association Education Foundation, and the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute so that employees receive real-life context in various situations.

While the training has been offered since 2015, this is the first year that the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA) has made scholarships available to Coastal residents interested in the program. The scholarships are made possible thanks to funding from Travel Oregon. “We are excited to be able to offer an additional $15,000 in scholarships over the next year,” says Marcus Hinz, OCVA executive director.

The Oregon Guest Service Gold training features stories of real Oregon hospitality employees working for a variety of tourism businesses, ranging from a small winery to the Portland International Airport. Participants in the course watch video clips and discuss seven principles at these story locations:
1. Recovery: Turn it around – (Theory Restaurant at OMSI)
2. Personalization: Provide an individualized experience – (Timberline Lodge & Ski Area)
3. Knowledge: Be in the know – (Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel)
4. Passion: Inspire others – (St. Josef’s Winery)
5. Commitment: Be all in – (Portland International Airport)
6. Inclusion: Include everyone – (Oregon Convention Center)
7. Personality: Be yourself – (Travel Oregon Welcome Center)

Participants spend time role playing and problem solving typical customer service scenarios. “My staff has decades of experience in the hospitality industry, and the program helped solidify we’re doing a lot of things right,” says Misty Anderson, general manager and event coordinator for Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast. “But there’s always room for improvement. Since taking the training, we are using a common language to resolve any issues and learn from teachable moments.”

Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast has achieved a 100 percent participation rate in Guest Service Gold, thanks in large part to OCVA’s scholarship program. “OCVA made it entirely possible for our organization to achieve a 100 percent participation rate,” Anderson says. “The cost to pay employees for their time spent at the training and to pay for the training itself was cost prohibitive for a company of our size.”

This program appeals to a broad cross-section of hospitality-related organizations, according to Wendy Popkin, executive director of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association’s Education Foundation. “There’s no one-size-fits-all model for this program. There are a variety of ways to take advantage of the OCVA scholarships to adapt this program to meet each company’s own needs,” Popkin says. She will be leading a guest service gold training at the People’s Coast Summit, Oct. 9-10 in Waldport, where people can hear positive testimonies and learn more about the program.

Larger organizations, such as Pelican Brewing and Overleaf Lodge and Spa, have joined the Guest Service Gold “Train the Trainers” network, which allow them to run their own in-house Guest Service Gold trainings. Others, such as Heceta Head B&B and Driftwood Shores, have arranged a private training for their entire staff. And, very small organizations with just a few employees can send individual employees to an in-person training or require that they take an online course to become certified.

One such company, Big Wave Cafe in Manzanita, is already seeing positive results. Owner, Brian Williams, attended the training with 14 of his employees. “As an owner and a chef, I can tell you that we usually say we are too busy or it is too expensive to attend trainings,” he says. “But I know this training will pay for itself. The feedback from the team was off the charts and everyone found it to be time well spent — including me.”

OCVA sees this program not only as a way to improve job opportunities for employees and the travel experience for visitors, but as a way to build camaraderie among Coastal businesses. “Over time, as more and more people become Guest Service Gold certified, I think the visitor experience along the entire Coast will reach a new level,” says Marcus Hinz, OCVA executive director.

Anderson agrees. “We are all ambassadors for the Coast, not just our own business. Visitors appreciate when we recommend points of interest, including other businesses. They are starting to view the Coast as one destination rather than multiple small towns.”

To apply for a scholarship, register for a training or connect with a trainer in your area, please go here or contact Arica Sears, OCVA strategic communications coordinator, at

Photo courtesy of Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast