Volunteers wanted to greet IFB visitors

Organisers of the International Festival for Business (IFB) are seeking 1,000 volunteers to welcome visitors to the city this summer as part of Liverpool’s bid to become the first city region in Great Britain to achieve the prestigious WorldHost accreditation.

Liverpool ONE, which with Liverpool City Council, manages the existing 150-strong City Stars volunteer community, is driving the IFB 2014 welcome programme, sponsored by United Utilities, to boost numbers for this summer’s business and cultural bonanza.

The Festival, which Liverpool and the city region is hosting on behalf of the UKover 50 days in June and July, is expected to attract thousands of extra visitors to more than 180 events at more than 70 city region venues.

IFB’s cultural programme also includes Memories of August 1914, one of the national flagship events marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, which sees the return of Royal de Luxe’s spectacular giants as well as hundreds of thousands of people to the city’s streets (23-27 July).

Sports fans will also be flocking to the region for the world’s premier golf event, the Open Championship, which returns to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake in Wirral (13-20 July).

Chris Bliss, Estate Director at Liverpool ONE, said: “We are facing an unprecedented surge in visitors this summer and we want to make sure that they are greeted warmly by knowledgeable volunteers.

“This initiative has worked really well since European Capital of Culture in 2008 and we need to swell the ranks of the City Stars who we always mobilise for big events.

“We are already speaking to schools, the universities and charities to make sure they access this opportunity, as well as the city’s Blue and Green Badge guides, but we need as many as 1,000 people and are appealing to those who want to make a real difference to the visitor experience and who are proud to show off their city and their city region.”

As part of the recruitment drive Chris Bliss will be joined by Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson and Liverpool’s Lord Mayor Cllr Gary Millar at a volunteer Open Day on Thursday April 3 from 4pm at Mann Island which will provide more information about IFB and the role of the volunteer.

The IFB 2014 volunteer programme will also help in the quest for Liverpool city region to become the UK’s first officially recognised WorldHost regional destination.

WorldHost programmes provide a gold standard in customer service training for any business that relies on day-to-day interaction with customers for success.

A consortium of organisations, led by Merseytravel and in partnership with VisitLiverpool and Liverpool ONE, has secured separate funding from the Skills for Growth Bank to provide subsidised language short-courses and employer-led customer service training for around 2,400 customer-facing staff.

As a result of this joint investment from the Skills for Growth Bank and Visitor Economy businesses training will be delivered free of charge to around 2,400 staff in the visitor economy, retail and transport services.

Mayor Anderson said: “We have an excellent and well-deserved reputation for the warm welcome we offer visitors and it is really important that we build on that success.

“We need to exceed visitors’ expectations to make sure they enjoy their stay here and come back again and we want the business community to share our ambition in becoming a leading visitor destination.

“The sheer scale of this summer’s activity provides us with the perfect opportunity to increase the skills of our own people and of those who are working in the visitor economy by becoming an official WorldHost destination.

“Being equipped with these skills will improve a person’s employability, boost their confidence, while increase our reputation as a wonderful place to visit.

“It’s also a great opportunity for hospitality and tourism businesses to boost their profitability and visibility by delivering world-class customer service.”

Brian Wisdom, chief executive of People 1st, which owns the licence for the WorldHost programme in the UK, said: “WorldHost has already been used to train more than 120,000 people in the UK, including Games-makers, ambassadors and suppliers at London 2012.

“It is wonderful to see that Liverpool is joining the commitment to increase customer service skills and to make its mark in the tourism and visitor economy.”

Steve Fraser, Managing Director of Operations at United Utilities, said: “As a business we are committed to giving great customer service and so we are delighted to support this drive to make this summer a truly unforgettable experience for anyone visiting Liverpool city region, whether it is for business, culture or sport.

“IFB 2014 can be a real game changer for the region, shining a spotlight on our areas of business excellence, but it’s also about how we engage with the world and an army of passionate volunteers will make a difference now and for years to come.”

For more information on the volunteer programme, and to sign up, visit www.ifb2014.com/Volunteer-at-ifb-2014-i84.html, or come along to the Open Day on Thursday April 3 from 4pm.

To sign your business up for free WorldHost training or for information about subsidised language courses, visit www.ifb2014.com/-i88.html