Southern Hospitality Academy set for Feb. 18

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 12, 2010

NATCHEZ — When Ruth Nichols met with the Miss-Lou’s three mayors, she was excited about how happy they were that someone is addressing hospitality.

The Southern Hospitality Academy, which starts next week, will be a free course on customer service offered to the community, spearheaded by Nichols, special assistant to the president at Alcorn State University.

The program will be a two-day event at the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau. The first day, Thursday, will target managers and owners. The next class, on Feb. 25, will target training employees.

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Jim White, corporate vice president at Isle of Capri Casino will deliver the keynote presentation.

“He is the corporate trainer who did the ‘See, Say, Smile’ campaign for the casino,” said Marsha Colson, who is a Southern Hospitality Academy committee member. “(Isle of Capri) had higher ratings under his training, and the casino employees get higher tips.”

Implemented in May 2008, “See, Say, Smile” took the Natchez casino to the top or tied for first of all 14 Isle properties.

The class is addressing topics such as phone etiquette, greetings and problem solving.

Registration starts at 8:30 p.m. and the welcome will be at 9 a.m. A free lunch will be provided at 12:30 p.m.

Another speaker at the event will be Diana O’Toole, who will explain the economic impact tourism and customer service has on the state level.

Tours of Natchez will be given at 2 p.m., including visits to some of the historic homes, the Chamber of Commerce and the Forks of the Road, among other landmarks.

“We don’t need to take anything for granted,” Colson said. “You’d be surprised at how many people who live here do not know this basic stuff.”

To sign up, contact the Chamber of Commerce at 601-445-4611.