Proudly wearing bright blue shirts with a fedora hat and ribbon wrapped around the top, the friendly Ambassadors of Santa Monica are easy to spot in the downtown areas of the city. They provide an invaluable service to the city, helping tourists and locals alike who are in need of assistance.
“The Ambassadors are critical,” said Kevin Herrera, Senior Communications Manager for Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM). “They play a very vital role in helping our guests – whether they be locals, downtown employees or visitors from all over the globe – find restaurants, stores, and make suggestions about places to stay.”
Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other services the Ambassadors provide in the area of hospitality.
“If people have lost a wallet or need help finding a car or whatever, our Ambassadors are there to assist them,” Herrera said. “They also provide late-night safety escort service to employees. So if you want someone to accompany you to your car for safety reasons, the Ambassadors are there and available to do that as well.”
That’s not all. Ambassadors also engage in maintenance duties.
“They help us maintain the area by sweeping up garbage, removing graffiti, and going through all our parking structures to ensure our visitors have the best experience possible.”
The Ambassadors cover a 35-square block area in downtown Santa Monica, including the very popular Third Street Promenade. The coverage area doesn’t include the beach and Pier, though. But there is still plenty to keep Ambassadors busy throughout the year.
“Another critical role the Ambassadors play is interacting with our homeless population,” Herrera said. “So the Ambassadors are out there on the frontlines every day. They try and assist the home- less to access services and get the help they need.”
Operations Manager Paulita Elliott manages a
staff of 42 Ambassadors. She said friendliness is a big factor in getting hired.
“We hire for personality and train for skill,” she said. “They have to represent the city well.”
So far, Herrera feels the Ambassadors have been doing a great job representing Santa Monica. “Every time we get feedback it’s at least 95 percent positive,” he said.
All the Ambassadors are paid employees of Santa Monica, and need to go through training procedures throughout the year.
“It’s an ongoing training,” Elliott said. “We conduct a background check. We have an initial 40-hour training, bi-monthly training, and monthly safety training.”
Ambassadors must pass a series of tests, and since a big part of the job is walking outside and helping guests, it’s important to stay in good enough shape to get around.
Elliott pointed out that Ambassadors are outside in the sunshine most of the year, which would seem like a good job to most people. But getting a coveted position as an Ambassador isn’t always easy; only about 10 new employees have been hired in Santa Monica over the past year-and-a-half.
Santa Monica’s Ambassador program started in 2009 and without a doubt has been a benefit to the city. Elliott expects to hire more Ambassadors next year as well as expand local services.
Cities all across the country have Ambassador programs in place, which are set up through “Block by Block” nationwide services.
Besides the hospitality services to guests, downtown Ambassadors also provide information to businesses on a regular basis through a monthly newsletter called “The Memo.” This one-sheet contains updates regarding operational and marketing programs, construction or development impacting the area, as well as details on any high impact events.
For more information or to request service from Downtown Santa Monica Ambassadors, call 310.877.7731