Recently, a Cape Charles Mirror reader submitted these comments, “I know the tourists bring money, and they help the local businesses, but sometimes I wonder if we need them…is this a good bargain for us? Sometimes I don’t blame them, they are on vacation, they are spending their money, so it makes sense they might be ‘all about them’, and be kind of selfish, and just walk by and never any eye contact, or a hello. That’s just the nature of it, but it’s hard when it happens…in your home town, and where you sometimes feel like a second class citizen in your own town. Some things just set you off…the other night at the Experimental Film show at the theatre, and yes it was packed, but we’re sitting next to these ‘people’ who were obviously from out of town, and they started complaining right from the beginning…it was too hot, the place was ‘old and musty’, the service at the bar was horrendous, etc.). I let it go for a while, but when …before the films, when they were announcing things that had happened over the last few weeks, such as how the young dancers and interns did so much to help make the films, and they cheered for each other, this woman just kept saying, ‘Oh these people…they’re so…oh, these people’. I finally had to turn to her and say, ‘You know, these people come here from all different places, come here to make films, and yes, they are young and fun and exuberant…if you don’t like it, there are a lot of people that would like your seat right now.’ She just sneered and turned away from me.”
While the film encounter is somewhat extreme, the general gist is not out of the ordinary. But from the visitor’s perspective, as the reader noted above, if you have worked hard, and you go to a place for vacation, spending money, you are there for your enjoyment and relaxation. That’s all–having to integrate into the community you are visiting is not a requirement. It is what it is. Watching folks enjoying and loving Cape Charles, kids riding around town on skateboards, or families on bikes and golf carts on their way to watch a movie at a beautiful, historic theater is great to see–these simple, fun, small town joys are things they probably never get to do back home, and you can see the enjoyment on their faces.
Still, for locals, there will always be a love-hate relationship with tourists. Yes, we know, their presence increases economic growth, generates employment, income and tax revenue and is the preferred path for regional development. On the flip side, is it selling out the local, historical culture? What is the environmental impact? The increased infrastructure needed to maintain this lifestyle has already pushed costs skyward, with the town budget pushing ever closer to the $8 million mark. Taxes and fees must increase to keep pace, all the while providing downward pressure on folks struggling with fixed incomes.
Despite the initial upside, is it really just a Faustian bargain?
Enter your comments below, we would love to get a pulse on just what folks are feeling about this.