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Released February 24, 2005

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!

LONG BEACH - Eleven Russian hotel and hospitality management entrepreneurs will spend the next two weeks in training at The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Park campus. The program, sponsored by the Southern Miss Tourism Management department and two local Rotary Clubs, will provide advice on American hotel and hospitality practices and techniques from their industry counterparts.

On campus from Feb. 28 through March 11, the delegates will participate in educational sessions regarding management strategies, planning and analysis, customer service management and other topics regarding American tourism and hospitality. They will travel to local businesses throughout the Gulf Coast with a Russian facilitator and professional interpreter who will assist in the understanding of the coast's industry practices.

"We are extremely excited about sharing with the Russian hoteliers how the hospitality and hotel industry operates in the United States, particularly in the South where 'Southern Hospitality' is a way of life," said Ernie Wilson, director of the program and assistant professor of Tourism Management at Southern Miss.

"The training program and the industry visits we have designed for them cover a broad spectrum of hotel management topics and how hotels interface and depend upon other segments of the overall tourism and travel industry."

Southern Miss and the Rotary Club of Gulfport-Orange Grove and the Rotary Club of Gulfport have partnered together to educate and instruct the Russian Hospitality Industry delegation.

Sheila Currie, International Committee chairman of the Rotary Club of Gulfport, believes that the Productivity Enhancement Program provides an opportunity for Rotary to build a bridge of cultural and economic understanding between Russia and the United States.

"More than 400 Rotary Clubs in 45 states have participated in the PEP program. What I find intriguing are 94 percent of PEP graduates surveyed indicated Rotary's principles and values have had a strong impact on their thoughts and actions," Currie said.

The program has been organized through the Productivity Enhancement Program, the flagship program of the nonprofit Center for Citizen Initiatives. They provide intensive U.S.- based business management training for Russian entrepreneurs.

For more information on the program, please contact Ernie Wilson at (228) 214-3240.

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April 6, 2005 2:37 PM