Chamber Offers D.C. Help

Posted February 6, 2007 at 6:35pm

Congressional staffers have to field myriad phone calls every day, including ones from constituents asking for information about visiting the nation’s capital.

To help staffers with those questions, the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual “Ask Me About Washington” event Thursday in the Cannon Caucus Room 345. The event, co-hosted by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), will allow staffers to get information that they can pass on to constituents looking to visit the city.

Representatives from the District’s tourism spots and the hospitality industry will be available at the fair. These organizations include theaters, restaurants, hotels and museums.

“[Staffers] get calls all the time from visitors,” D.C. Chamber of Commerce Director of Visitor Services Sue Porter said. “In this information fair, staffers can get all the information or get contact information [from the representatives].”

The annual information fair, which began 15 years ago, attracts about 300 staffers. This year’s event will have 50 tourism-related businesses to provide staffers with answers to the most frequently asked questions about tourism attractions.

Porter said that with the new Members of Congress come new staffers who might not be familiar with the District. But they must have the ability to answer questions from constituents inquiring about activities and places to see in D.C. The information fair is especially helpful for those who are new to the city, she said.

“This year, when the leadership changed, there are new staffers in a number of offices,” Porter said.

Those new to the city are not the only ones who attend the event. Seasoned staffers also are likely to attend to find the latest information about the city, including new restaurants and establishments that could be of interest to constituents visiting the city.

“Even people who live here and are working on the Hill, there are plenty of things they haven’t done,” Porter said.

Staffers will be able to get guides, maps and other information that could be useful for visitors.

“[Visitors] always want to know about all the park services: where is the Washington Monument, how do I get tickets, where do I eat or find a hotel,” Porter said. “Real basic stuff they need when they come to the city.”

Congressional staffers also are encouraged to send constituents to the D.C. Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center located in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center for any additional information.

“When constituents come to town, they can be referred to the D.C. visitor center,” Porter said. “If [staffers] can’t remember all this other stuff, the information is all at the [center].”

Traveler’s Aid, an organization providing information and directions about local resources to visitors, will be at the event as another resource for Congressional staffers. The organization is especially useful when travelers encounter problems during their stay, including losing luggage or encountering a more serious crisis.

The event will last from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.