02 August 2017

A scheme which will make sure visitors to Sunderland get a warm welcome is being piloted in the city this summer.

Mak’em Smile is a new initiative created by the city’s Business Improvement District which will see staff from various service industries being trained to ensure visitors get a friendly reception.

And the result will be an ever-growing team of welcome ambassadors, who will help to ensure that first and lasting impressions of the city are positive.

Staff from the city’s pubs, shops, restaurants, taxis and hotels will be given the opportunity to take part in a training course where they will be given information about how to get the best out of the city, covering things like where to eat, things to do, events and local history.

Sunderland’s Business Improvement District developed the training in the hope that it will see the city being viewed not only as being filled with positive people but showing it as somewhere with plenty to offer.

The first session – which includes staff from the Bridges, Sunderland City Council, Greggs, Boots, Wilko, Asiana, Station Taxis, Reynolds Outdoors, Santander and Pub Culture – was held last week (28 July), with the hopes that by July 2018 around 350 people will have been trained.

Gemma Dishman, the BID’s communications and marketing manager, who has devised the course, believes creating city ambassadors is a hugely positive move.

“Getting a team of people who can create a Mak’Em Smile welcome is so important to the city,” said Gemma.

“At a time when so much investment is taking place and with events that will put the city on a national and international stage, we need to ensure that everyone who comes to Sunderland receives a warm welcome.                     

“Our ambassadors will be armed with the most up to date information about what is happening in the city and will be able to use this to promote Sunderland and its businesses.

“The training sessions are free so businesses will be able to reap the benefit of having knowledgeable staff who can showcase what the city has to offer.”

The sessions are being run by sales training experts, New Results, based at the e-volve centre, Rainton Bridge.

Director Nicola Tynemouth said the team was, “extremely excited to be involved in the project.”

“We work with many companies and their staff on giving them the skills they need to sell,” she said.

“This project gives us the opportunity to give the ambassadors the skills they need to put visitors to Sunderland in a positive mindset, making sure visitors leave with a smile and we are really thrilled to be involved.”

Each employee who completes the training will be given a pin badge, certificate and Mackem dictionary, with plans to introduce a discount card to help participants experience everything the city offers and make it easier to spread the word.

They will also be kept up to date with news and events by weekly emails and get the chance to win prizes in regular draws.

Any city centre business interested in signing up for future sessions should contact Gemma at [email protected]