Airports all over the United States hire bilingual staff to act as professional translators when International flights arrive. Travelers who don’t speak English often arrive and are in need of assistance to find their luggage, the exit, or even just the bathroom. Hiring bilingual staff is costly. Not only are their services more expensive, but they also take time out of their shift to assist people. For that reason, more staff must be hired to fill in the blanks. Many also pay for translation hotlines in case their staff can’t help someone. However, a volunteer program in Lee County, Florida has reinvented the way International tourists are greeted at Southwest Florida International Airport.
Bilingual Volunteers Work Seven Day a Week
At the Southwest airport, bilingual volunteers work every day to greet tourists when they arrive. The volunteer German translator waits at a booth near the Air Berlin terminal. That way, visitors can go directly to her for information about their luggage or about the area. She greets them warmly and even offers pamphlets of information in their native language. There are 121 volunteers staffed at the airport, so most languages are covered. However, if a traveler comes in and none of the volunteers speak their language, they have a list of local bilingual Florida residents who can assist. If all else fails, they have an iPad translation app to help in a pinch.
The Volunteer Service Also Brings Money In
In addition to saving an estimated $400,000 every year, the volunteer program also brings money into the airport. When travelers have benefited from the volunteer services before, there is a good chance they will return to the same airport again the next time they travel. The warm welcome gives visitors a sense of hospitality that is not common in many airports in the United States. If an airport offers any translation at all, it’s usually a cold and impersonal professional translation service. Not only is the revolutionary service saving taxpayer’s money on better airport staff, it is also bringing in more revenue.
The volunteers spend their time helping travelers because many of them are native speakers of another language, and they find joy in helping someone from their native culture enjoy the area that they’ve made their home. Many volunteers are called in for specific flights, so they aren’t spending long hours waiting for someone to need their translation services.