Steve Ashmore, a blogger for the Northwest Florida Daily News, recently had a very timely and interesting piece called "Here's how to survive the Summer Season." If you didn't catch it, you can read it at ow.ly/MrAc30c1d3e. Steve has some great advice.
We live in a tourist area, one that hundreds of thousands of people save their money and vacation time to visit every year. They're probably jealous and think we live in paradise, which of course we do. But paradise comes with benefits and responsibilities as does being a tourist. Here's a few thoughts about living in a tourist area and being a tourist when you're traveling.
We all have to live together on the roads, and it's not made any easier when those of us who are locals know where we're going and want to get there quickly yet those of us who are tourists are in "vacation - no rush" mode and have no idea where the GPS is telling us to go. It's difficult but both tourists and locals have to be aware, tolerant and understanding of each other.
Someone once pointed out to me that each of those out of state cars on U.S. Highway 98 or County Highway 30A is a credit card on wheels. They are fueling the local economy and providing our jobs. Tourists to Florida are paying 24 percent of sales tax, which is why we don't have state income tax. When you're playing tourist, remember that you're on vacation to have fun, indulge yourself and eat well, take tours and buy souvenirs to take home. It's your duty!
Be aware of cultural differences and be careful to neither cause offense nor take offense too easily. This applies equally to how you behave when visiting a foreign country thousands of miles away, or when welcoming a fellow countryman who's from a big city. We all have different ways of doing things and one of the beautiful things about tourism is that it gives us the opportunity learn and enjoy those different cultural nuances.
We love people to come back to our destination every year and to tell their friends to visit too. Similarly, we all like to be invited back (hopefully not just to apologize!). We locals are welcoming strangers into our home. Luckily, that's part of our Southern culture and part of being a hospitality professional. When we swap hats and become a tourist it behooves us to remember that we're guests, and we should respect our hosts and their home.
I know I'm telling everyone what they already know, but I have to remind myself at the start of each tourist season and every time I venture to a new destination. Enjoy the summer no matter if you're a local or a visitor.
If there are any questions you have about the tourism or hospitality business, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll try and find you the answer or find someone who can.
Martin Owen is an independent consultant to the tourism industry and owner of Owen Organization in Shalimar. Readers can email questions to email@example.com.