Those friendly people roaming downtown with visors and red polo shirts this summer are Durango Ambassadors, out to help visitors optimize their time in the city.
The Durango Ambassador program, run through the Durango Business Improvement District, is entering its seventh year downtown.
Ambassadors work from Memorial Day weekend through September, during the peak tourism season.
These part-time seasonal jobs are not for anyone. Tim Walsworth, executive director of the BID, said the organization seeks friendly, outgoing people who are knowledgeable about Durango.
Program coordinator Tanya Clegg said prospective ambassadors must pass a quiz about Durango before being hired.
“We’re really looking for somebody who loves Durango, and knows Durango well,” Clegg said. “We ask general questions about restaurants and things to do and places to go.”
The program is supported, in-part, by the city of Durango, Walsworth said. There are other sponsors that support the program, but BID is still working to fill out sponsorship this year.
Clegg said the program began with five ambassadors, but has grown significantly in the past seven years.
“Somewhere around eight ambassadors is the sweet spot for us ... with the number of shifts, the number of weeks and the number of hours,” Walsworth said.
Ambassadors track the number of interactions they have with people downtown.
“An interaction counts when our ambassadors truly engage with a person, a family or a small group and they’re giving them something,” Walsworth said. “Whether it’s information on how to use the parking meter, or a map, or a referral for restaurants or shopping.”
In 2018, the Ambassadors had 6,000 interactions with downtown visitors. In 2019, there were 7,400 interactions and in 2020 there were only 2,500, he said.
“We took a hit for sure, in the summer of 2020 because of all the uncertainty with how the virus transmitted we didn’t start the program up until July,” he said.
Also during summer 2020, ambassadors did not walk Main Avenue like they normally do. Instead, they worked out of a kiosk with protective equipment.
In 2021, the number of interactions soared to 11,000, Walsworth said.
Ambassadors also track where visitors are from. Unsurprisingly, most visit from Texas, New Mexico and the Front Range, he said.
“Those are the top three that always come up in some order, but we also get folks from California, Arizona and Utah,” he said. “Then we also get international visitors, but those numbers have really dropped off the past couple years with international travel being affected by the pandemic.”
Ambassadors often give restaurant recommendations or provide a map of the area. Walsworth said in the past couple of years many people have been asking about outdoor activities.
Ambassadors are given city parking cards to assist people who may be having trouble with the meters, and even give some a free hour of parking.
“Nothing gives you friends faster than if you pay for someone’s parking,” Walsworth said.