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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It Pays to Be Kind to Tourists. Really.

Yesterday morning I meandered my way to work through Congress Park, noticing that the still-brown ducklings have grown but the mama ducks still hover and marveling at that protective instinct with which I so strongly, sometimes maybe too strongly, identify.
I watched two women taking turns photographing each other in between the giant urns not far from the Canfield Casino, and gladly agreed to take a couple of shots of the two friends together. I stopped to look at the area near the Canfield Casino that on Aug. 5 will officially become the Marylou Whitney Rose Garden in honor of the philanthropist, socialite, horse owner and business woman who for decades has been the Queen of the Spa City.
I guess I look local and approachable, because a couple to ask me whether the Casino was the Visitor’s Center. I pointed to the park entrance, where they’d find the Visitors Center across the street, gave them a 30-second explanation about the Casino and encouraged them to check out the building, including the Saratoga Springs History Museum. I asked what brought them here, and they said they were from Virginia, visiting family in Albany. They were just checking out Saratoga Springs for fun, they said, heading into the Casino.
“Ask me,” I thought to myself, “I’m local.”
Joe Dalton, who retired a year ago at the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce’s longtime president, was always telling anyone who would listen about the importance of being friendly to tourists. I couldn’t agree more. We all represent this place, and can enhance (or diminish) the visitors’ experience. If this sounds sappy, tough. It’s true and you know it, from the times you are playing tourist somewhere else. Being friendly and helpful is well worth the effort.
I mention the chamber because today it has re-launched Dalton’s “Ask Me, I’m Local,” a Be Kind to Visitors campaign. Admittedly, “Ask Me, I’m Local,” makes me think of phrases like Don’t Feed the Tourists or Kiss Me, I’m Irish, especially since the pin that the chamber is pushing is green and white.
I don’t need to sport the “Ask Me, I’m Local” pin. Apparently I already reek of local yokel. But don’t let that stop from you from getting in on the action. You can find the pins at various downtown banks and other locations, along with a shiny fact sheet listing key activities and contact info. The sheet was also inserted into Friday’s Saratogian and can be downloaded at by clicking on the Ask Me I’m Local button down the righthand side of the page, or clicking here.


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