Loss of Civility in Tourism Towns by Tim Cafferty
Today I am sad because in my heart I knew that the world was becoming less civil over the past few years, but in the last few weeks in my community it has become abundantly clear. And it is not “THE” world, but it is MY world that has changed.
My world has always been focused on welcoming guests to the Outer Banks.
In fact, I know no one in this community who can truly say they are not dependent on tourism. Zero. From the housekeeper, to the butcher, to the doctor at the community hospital no one survives here without visitors.
I’ve had the fortune to be involved in this wonderful business called vacation rentals for the majority of my 57-year life. My Dad was one of the original REALTORS on the Outer Banks when he opened his vacation rental company in 1964. I had tremendous pride being the “linen boy” which involved loading sheets and towels in guest cars in 1970 something. I then became the youth ambassador for my Dad’s company as I met my new friends each week in our family’s cottage court and then welcomed them back every year.
I never felt put upon by the visits from the Burns family, or the Soto children, or the Harringtons, or the many other annual families that visited every year. In fact, I developed lifetime bonds with them. To this day I speak to Patrick Burns on a regular basis whom I met on the beach as I was picking up starfish one day when I was 6 years old. 50 years later his children are extended members of my family and my children often ask about him.
Back to my pain: Recently my local community’s response to the closing of the Outer Banks.
You may be aware that our emergency control group closed the Outer Banks to visitors on March 17th. Non-resident property owners were then turned away beginning the evening of March 20th. Since then it has been difficult not to notice how the “locals” have treated anyone in the area with an out of state license plate (even if they actually do live here). Spoiler alert – it has not been good.
Somehow our locals (you can spot them because they have bumper stickers that say “local as it gets” or “some of us are not on vacation”) evidently feel that we may not need guests any longer.
I was not aware of how many people that live here who feel no need to always portray an attitude of welcome. These defenders of safety have taken it upon themselves to police the roadways, parking lots and stores to find people who do not belong here and advise them with a raised finger, clenched fist, or high volume insult that they and their diseases are not welcome on the Outer Banks. They also scour social media and have been increasingly vocal and vitriol there as well.
Clearly anyone with an out of state license plate doesn’t belong here, and it is their responsibility to shame them back to where they belong. Anyone who disagrees is filled with greed and is reckless about our collective safety.
Call it fear. Call it entitlement. Call it ignorance. Call it what you will, but I call it a loss of civility and I think it is dangerous, and it disturbs me greatly.
When we do open the roads what will it be like for our real visitors? At a time when we need to worry more about our own house and what is happening there than ever before it seems judgement and accusation of others is the focus of too many. At a time when we all should know the importance of a job and being kind it seems neither is happening.
It makes me sad, and it is my hope that we can recover from it as well as we will undoubtedly recover from this virus. I have a feeling that this character exposure of our locals will came back to haunt us all.
This is a guest post from Tim Cafferty of Outer Banks Blue, one of the premier vacation rental management companies in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. If you'd like to listen to Tim and myself, here's a fantastic podcast (pre-Covid19) which gives context to his concerns: