BRANSON, Mo. – In recent years, Branson has become a world-class travel destination. Tourism numbers have exploded. Now, students from all over the world are helping to welcome travelers to the heart of the Ozarks.

In the day and age of worker shortages and short-staffing problems, White Water has been able to stay functioning and fully staffed thanks to 44 international students. Edgar Martinez has traded one tropical location for the Ozarks beach within reach.

“Every time you come to White Water, I’m the first person you see.”

Edgar is from the Dominican Republic. He thinks Branson is beautiful.

“Branson, wow. It’s a nice place,” smiles Edgar, “This is my first time in the U.S. and I’m impressed.”

Edgar is part of the Silver Dollar City Attractions Bridge USA Visa program. The program gives international students a way to immerse themselves in a new culture.

Melisa Lewis first came to the United States as part of the same program when she fell in love with the area and how welcoming people are.

“Not just the community here in this area, but to anyone who wants to be a part,” says Melisa.

Melisa now works in human resources. Every summer she introduces international students, like Edgar, to the same Ozarks kindness she experiences.

“It’s very kind. The people are so kind. Everything here is southern hospitality.

In the fall, Edgar will head home and return to school, where he is studying accounting, but he hopes to return to Branson next year.

“I really love America,” Edgar says.

There are 44 international students at White Water, but across Branson, Silver Dollar City Attractions has brought in 167 students total.