Exchange Visitor Welcome Program
Exchange Visitor Welcome Program
Estes Park customarily hosts over 500 Summer Work Travel exchange participants on a J-1 Visa to fill our summer workforce needs. The past few years have been a challenge for the program, but 2022 is shaping up to be strong again. In most tourism destinations, the Chamber of Commerce takes a leading role in supporting the experience of these exchange students and their employer hosts. The Chamber has been working with sponsor companies to provide a more seamless experience for the workers and the employers. We have been interviewing other chambers in tourism towns to learn how they are supporting exchange students and the business community. In some locations like Cape Cod and Branson, MO, the program has matured to include welcome events where the Chamber brings in personnel from social security to process the necessary paperwork. That program includes banks, the library, recreation and fitness facilities -- any service that will help our exchange students navigate opportunities. Our goal is to take some of that burden off the employers.
We hosted an information session for J1 hosts on January 11 as a service to our members looking for summer workforce. Here is a link to the video recording of our meeting. You can access a copy of the slides here. On February 1, we joined with community members to discuss ways to create a welcome program for these summer guests. Get the video here. Here's a summary of the opportunity we've discovered.
- Create web page on esteschamber.org as a hub for host employers and student information and a Facebook group for employers now and students this summer to exchange ideas.
- Housing is the #1 issue with placement in Estes Park.
- We'll be posting our discoveries on housing solutions on this page so you don't have to duplicate the effort of making those calls.
- We're working with the EDC and the Housing Authority to identify potential long term solutions.
- We're collaborating with the high school to identify families who have hosted before and a blueprint for a home host program
- The Library has offered the Hondius room as an information station where we can house an open house throughout June, maybe late May.
- We'll contact service organizations in Estes Park to staff that information station.
- We've identified several organization who can offer rides for students to get necessary documentation.
- Partner with local churches and youth organizations to create a series of welcome events.
- Host a welcome event in a central location where students and employers can meet with social security resources, banks, and anyone with a service to aid their experience.
- Ask Chamber member tour operators to provide scheduled RMNP tours with an after party at a brewery or restaurant.
- Engage Chamber restaurants and coffee houses to host ad hoc connection events throughout the summer.
- Create a series of scheduled day trips to CSU, Rockies Baseball, The Pepsi Center, Garden of the Gods, The AIr Force Academy, the Broadmoor Zoo and others.
- Several partners throughout town can join forces with this task force to fill in gaps
- Transportation is a huge issue. The Chamber will contact Vanessa Solesbee about connection with shuttle resources.
- Since this is a visitor initiative, we'll invite Visit Estes Park to help us in branding the Estes Park experience to make our town a desirable destination for students.
- The local papers might pitch in some communications to attract students to our welcome events.
- Ravencrest has offered to provide volunteers to help at events, there might be other organizations who want to participate in creating an international experience.
- Mountainview Bible Church is willing to host a potluck lunch in their gym to allow the community to connect with students.
- We're open to other ideas!! Join in this chat and let us know.
These are the people who help make this global travel experience great for kids around the world. There is a more comprehensive list that the State Department keeps here.