The National Geographic site I pointed everyone to the last two weeks (found here: http://destinationcenter.org/home-page/) suggests that the place to start working toward a tourism which works, might be to define the “character of place” so that sustainable tourism that protects resources – both natural and cultural – and one that enhances the tourist experience while protecting the local one, can be achieved. This is one such study undertaken by a MS candidate in Montana. Interesting to see that much of what the visitors enjoyed about their experience was the rural nature of the area and the interactions with residents. This could serve as a guide for how we might accomplish the same thing here. The University of Montana has provided that anyone can download this scholarly study for free.
At first, it seems intimidating, as it is long, but the author made it interesting by sharing the experiences of the residents and the tourists he spoke with. One observation will definitely resonate with all of us here in Big Sur.
One of the residents had this to say about work-force housing:
”I think that there is a strong sense within our community that we always like it the way it was, and the way it was 20 years ago is much different than the way it was 5 years ago, but that’s the way it was. So we’ll always be seeing those changes and transitions. But one of the big issues is going to be how do people afford to live in this community. The average price of a home is $307,000 currently. That’s not affordable. That’s not workforce housing. So we’ve got to find ways to increase the availability of workforce housing. Not necessarily affordable housing but what is called workforce housing. Unlike Aspen and similar places in Colorado, the one advantage that Whitefish has is that we do have a safety valve in terms of affordability in Kalispell and Columbia Falls. It would be best to have our police and fire and nurses and administrative help, all of the people that are fully and gainfully employed, it would be best to have them here in town, because that’s how we keep that grit. That’s how we keep that hometown flavor.”
And from another resident, a look at the impact of STRs:
“… outspoken residents of Whitefish protested the rising tide of local workers displaced by home prices inflating over the heads of ordinary people. Residents agreed that keeping longtime locals in town is vital to preserving the character of Whitefish. Residents told stories of close friends forced to move out of town to make ends meet, while landlords replace them with summer-only renters solicited on VRBO or Airbnb, “That’s not creating character in town if you don’t actually live in that house,” Roy testified.” (Both quotes can be found on page 38 of the paper.)
There is so much we can learn and apply to our situation by studying the way other tourist destination places have faced or are facing similar problems. Together, through a collaborative effort of sharing what works and what does not, we can all find ways to maintain a sense of community under the pressure of overtourism.
(Next week: The Galapagos.)