Tourism makes for great people watching. Having just returned from an Olympic level of people watching in New Orleans, I’d actually been a bit reflective and was thinking about the big city versus our little city when a friend of mine called to see how the trip went.
There really isn’t much in similarity between the two cities by comparison because, well, the two areas are wildly different … with the exception of tourism. It seems we both get our fair share of tourists.
Right about the time that I was explaining finer points of how nicely New Orleanians seemed to treat their tourists, a stream of PG-13 verbal rage crawled through the phone, sprinkled with a few colorful words.
It’s not the first time I’ve recognized frustration projected at visitors this fall or any fall for that matter.
Now, combine that with the honking horns, wagging middle fingers and the occasional bumper sticker that reads “If it’s tourist season why can’t we shoot them?” and it might actually appear that we don’t appreciate tourists in Southwest Florida. It certainly makes it look like we don’t need them.
The locals complaining about tourists have actually been on my mind since I saw the first car hauler rattle into town this fall.
I’ve lived here for decades and have grown use to them starting to show up shortly after Labor Day. You’ve may have seen them offloading along the Trail and at entrances to communities without giving them a second thought.
Basically, the car haulers mean the snowbirds are coming back. The flock is a blessing and I know many local business owners really felt their absence this year and have been counting on their return.
From that perspective, it would make sense that complaining about our main source of industry shouldn’t be so fashionable. If you’re one of those types maybe you’ve been thinking about this all wrong.
What if being stuck behind a slow poke in traffic means that we’re lucky?
We’re lucky that out of all of the warm places in the state of Florida or even the U.S. of A, the visitors chose to come here. They chose to support our local businesses, shop at our stores, dine in our restaurants, buy our real estate and contribute to our economy even if it’s just for nine months out of the year.
Nobody is a fan of heavy traffic or actually having to make a reservation to eat dinner but most of us should probably be grateful for our snowbirds, especially this year.
It was a long, hot summer and the business owners who took a shot at their American dream and stretched their leveraged necks out over the quiet summer are counting on us to make the seasonal residents and tourists feel a little bit more welcome. That would mean less grumbling and no anti-tourist bumper stickers.
Now, in fairness to the locals and to keep myself from being tarred and feathered for being pro-tourist, I will recommend that the visitors and seasonal residents may no longer drive in the fast lane … ever, write checks instead of use a debit card at the grocery store or complain about how much cheaper things are up north. Fair is fair.
Now get out there, Southwest Florida, and welcome the visitors with a friendly smile and a warm heart. And make sure you use all of your fingers when you’re waving at folks in traffic this season.
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Chris Griffith is a real estate agent at Downing-Frye Realty Inc. in Bonita Springs. If you have a question about local real estate or Bonita Springs, e-mail her at chris@LifeInBonitaSprings.com.