March 30, 2006

VA Pilot Reservations


I think I have this right. The government organization charged with attracting people to the Outer Banks invited a speaker, who has told people not to come to the Outer Banks, to speak to leaders of the Outer Banks. When he came he told the group that people wouldn't come to visit the Outer Banks because too many people are coming to visit the the Outer Banks. Do I have this right? The upshot is that the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau wants us to adopt policies that will make us look like a place where not many people come to visit so that a lot of people will come to visit.
That's my take on the lead article in the NC section of the Va. Pilot on Thurs.. The artilce reports on a speach by Jonathan Tourrellot (ryhmes with tours a lot) the geo-tourism editor of National Geographic. Mr. Toursalot ( I mean Tourrellot, is this really his name??) doesn't like the way the Outer Banks has developed, whats more the geo-tourism experts that Mr. Toursalot works with don't think much of it either. This we found out in 2004 in a geo-tourism evaluation of about 150 tourist destinations published in National Geographic Traveler. This survey did not treat the Outer Banks well. It showed us at the top of the bottom third of desitnations. The implication is that we are trending away from the "good" things in geo-tourism.
[Toursalot} said the area is primarily a rest-and-relaxation destination. “But,” he told the audience at Wright Brothers Centennial Pavilion, “what’s important about this place is there’s a lot of heritage and a lot of other cultural assets. That makes this different.”
A global survey of more than 200 specialists in sustainable tourism and destination quality, published in March 2004 in the traveler magazine, gave the Outer Banks a score of 52, with 100 being the best. Experts rated the aesthetics and tourism management as bad and gave a warning on environmental conditions. [snip]
With giant houses taking over the horizon and chain restaurants and stores replacing the quirky momand-pop establishments on the Outer Banks, tourists are taking note, Tourtellot said as he read some of their recent comments: “junk tourism,” “abuse of the word ‘ecotourism’ to promote visitation,” “grossly overdeveloped,” “massive second home development.”

I tend to be a little suspicious of this type of survey. I think you can find a better view what the editior thinks of the Outer Banks if you go back a little further in his magazine and find his piece written about the Outer Banks. Entitled "Fight Urban Sprawl" It bashes what the author refers to as "KittySnag" the strip running from Kitty Hawk to Nags Head. He stays at the FIrst Colony Inn, which he likes, but finds the the rest of the area less than pleasing
Acres of parking lots surround shopping centers and outlets and real-estate offices and stores selling T-shirts, coolers, kites, and seashells labeled "Product of the Philippines." Driving the bypass, you get a kind of franchise déjà vu: Food Lion, Exxon, BrewThru, Food Lion, Exxon, BrewThru. At night, over-lit businesses and unshielded floodlights on hundreds of rental houses keep the sky pale. Worst offender: The glass-wrapped beach-gear stores called Wings, each pouring out enough candlepower to light up a baseball diamond. Seashore romance? Here your nighttime walk on the sand is not by starlight, but by electric sky glow.
What, pray tell, does our frequent traveller like. Any guesses?
Now skip 90 miles south, to Ocracoke, a village on the sound side of a barrier island accessible only by ferry. Here, you can walk and bike on narrow lanes past charming houses. While relaxing at a harbor-side lunch table, you can watch pelicans and fishing boats.
Surprise, Surprise, I like it too. In fact its where I go on vacation, but Nags Head wasn't an old fishing village, it has been a place where tourists have come since the mid 1800's. We were what we are only smaller. Any attempt to make us into some kind of Colonial Williamsburg period piece is just phony. People have been selling beach supplies to tourists for a long time. This is our heritage Johnathan, get over it.
Actually I agree with some of the comments about overdevelopment (he did spot Wings) but I have a really hard time with the pretentious approach. He doesn't like local stores selling shells from the Philipines in Nags Head but has no problem with the same shells in Ocracoke. I wonder how he would react to an industry that harvested local shells from the beach for resale in Nags Head shops, kind of a large scale Nellie Myrtle Pridgeon business. My guess is he would object. He doesn't like Exxon or Brew Thru even though these businesses are locally owned and some dating back to well before anyone thought about over-development (Stop & Shop in KDH, Stop Quik in Nags Head, Kitty Hawk Exxon in KH). Brew Thru is nothing if not quirky, a t shirt store mascarading as a drive through convenience store, where else do you see that? In the Virginian Pilot article Toursalot sites " chain restaurants" as another precursor of our impending doom. I count 3 of them (french fry alley doesn't count, there hasn't been a new fast food place built in many years) on the Outer Banks, two at the OB Mall. neither of which look like their base chain building, neither of which even have free standing signs. I compare that to the nearly 100 locally owned restaurants that blanket the Outer Banks and I don't see Armegeddon just yet. There is so much that I don't like about his guy that I need to stop and explain how I think we can solve the problem. If you want more you can read an excellent speach he gave somewhere about what geo-tourism is and how it works. Note the section about the transition from R&R tourism to Entertainment tourism this is a shift we need to guard against.
Let me first say that I like Carolyn McCormack. I think she has done a good job promoting the Outer Banks and the Visitors Bureau is a pretty progressive organization, after all they brought us Mr. Toursalot, BUT if we really want fewer visitors then lets promote less, if we want to promote open space and envriomental conservation lets spend more on those values. In fact lets reverse the ratio of spending for the Visitors Bureau. Lets take the one-third of their revenue that is supposed to go to providing tourist infrastructure and make that the promotion budget then lets take the nearly $2,000,000 annually they get for promotion and use it to buy land for open space, reduce congetstion, install stormwater systems that reduce pollution, promote proper maintenance of septic tanks and promote sustainable tourism by starting home businesses to build beach chairs in Colington.
Secondly, lets stop promoting the Outer Banks completely and start to promote our individual communities. Some areas have done it better than others yet we all pay the price. Why should Duck by tarred by the commercial mess of the bypass in Kitty Hawk and KDH. Why should Nags Head get hung with the traffic problems of Southern Shores and Duck. And why should any of us be blamed for the travesty that is Corolla, (so many houses, so little land, see the photo above) Lets start some competition amongst areas for travel dollars, lets make areas responsible for their choices rather than spending dollars earned by the popular places to promote those that just don't get it. If the Outer Banks is getting a bad name then change it and make sure that ol' Toursalot can recognize the difference between South Nags Head and condo row in Kill Devil Hills.
Let me start again. If the OBVB really thinks that Mr. Tourtellot is right then they need to convene a major local conference on sustainability and make sure that it gets attended not just by the effete editor of the National Geographic but experts who can address the specific problems we face, the conference shouldn't just talk about how bad the area is but it should yeild a list of objectives that communities can take home and work on. It must also yeild consenus not just within local governement but including the business community that this really is the goal we want to pursue. Finally, the conference should identify funding sources for the objectives that come from it. They should do this because In the end Tourellot and the Visitors Bureau are right, we are threatened by our success but we are far from ruined by it and if we have leadership not lip service from the Visitors Bureau, maybe we can sustain that success and not succumb to it.

PS. For an interesting observation on Fla (and the Outer Banks?) read this column from Mr. Tourtellot written in 2003. Do we use tourism in the same manner?


At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is clear that you did not attend the presentation. In my opinion, Mr. Tourrellot clearly knew what he was talking about, despite the fact that if was something the audience (made up of 95% business people) hated to hear.
This was one presentation that should have been taped and shown on government channel 20. If you think McCormick (whom I also admire) caught holy hadies after the show; think what our locals would have done had they heard the whole story. The Va. Pilot did an excellent job of covering the event.
For me, the realy sad part was Commissioner Judge's comment towards the end to the effect that "the people of Dare County" needed to let the elected officials know how they feel about what is happening to the Outer Banks. Holy crap!...where has Judges been!!!!???...the past few years....out looking for sand to put behind his motels??
Enough said~

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Bob Muller said...

I will be the first to admit that I did not attend the speach. I did find the a seeminly similar speach and I have reveiwed Mr. Tourellot's written words which I don't think he strayed far from yesterday. If he said something other than I represented then I apologize but all I did in the post was quote the man's printed record.

At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the Tourism Bureau should heed the man's sentiments. As they should heed our VISITOR's sentiments. Which they have yet done here on the Outer Banks.

You spew vile language against a man who is only echoing what many of our vistors AND long time residents are saying? Carmen Gray was dead on the nail - What are our "fearlss leaders" doing to preserve our heritage and history? They do seem to find money for everything else under the sun but that. Look at Quags, we have this fine building slated for the wrecking ball but NO ONE has dared even approaching much less opening dialogue with the present owners about saving or moving this significant structure from ruin. Why? It put the Old OBX on the map!This hotel has been here for forever? Not one wink or glance of saving it has been adressed? If I recall correctly, the Town of Nags Head, under YOUR Mayoral watch wouldn't even permit the Nags Head Nellie Myrtle Beachcomber Museum from even opening, they fought tooth and nail to establish themselves and cannot even charge ba PALTRY admission fee becuase the town would not permit them to do so, I believe it was PARKING? What the hell Mr. Mueller? This Museum is OUTSTANDING, not in it's history but reflecting on a woman who years past loved this area and beach with all of her soul. Her findings and her legacy should be formost, shouldbe PROMOTED by the Town. I've been to her openings and not one nary Town or COUNTY offical has graced its presence! Why? You should respect this entity and also find a lot of folks are very interested in it! The fact (becuase of theown of Nags Head Regulations) the museum couldn't open on a daily basis, you've never given them the chance to prove how interesting and valuable they are as a town and community resource! The old Mattie Midgett store deserves to be open and tell it's story and explain our past , why did you (as a TOWN) shut it down? It's registered on the Natl.istoric Register of Deeds, Shame on you!

This day of reckoning is coming, the present state of our county and towns are completely out of touch with what has made our beautiful Outer Banks so attractive and glorious. The romance, the history, the beaches. All of this is more important then tax collections and "how many bedrooms you can squeeze on one tiny lot!" It used to be an affordable, family vacation affair. Now we're being morphed into a fake-hilton-head-island-esque crap, complete with a new Hilton!

They allow wings after wings, 10-BR McMansions and now chain stores and whatever else money talks, and then when someone well-recognized in the travel industry (who happens to work for a publication our very own visitors bureau chooses to advertise in) comes down and spells it like it is, they get nasty and rude.and argumentative about. I'm sure they feel it is dis-service to their readers to even allow us to advertise!

Our area is still beautiful, and it can remain and continue to be more so beautiful. If only our leaders would listen to both its visitors (who feed the ever-so-much-mentioned golden goose) and residents. The aforementioned folks do not want more of this, they DO NOT want beach nourishment or continued rampant developemnt (or progress as you towns tought it as) but they want the simple, nostalgic, seaward and beach-loving way of life. They do want sand bags after sandbags or Applebees or Wings. They (the locals) are selling the property that these disgusts are being built on becuase they too have had enough. They are selling out becuase they don't even believe in the cause anymore, the taxes, the costs, the disgust on our visitors faces. They are cashing in because they can and they don't want to stick around and witness the outcome.

Warren Judge should be appalled at his statements. Since when did this "fearless leader" listen to anything the Dare County public had to say, much evident in his posture at the Sand Tax Public Hearing held last year (and much to every residents' dismay how most of our elected officials acted after the hearing!) Please.

You have a very ficticious/ignorant way of presenting any gamant of local news or issues, and that my friend is pretty disgusting after you've FINALLY proclaimed you are an ex-mayor of a beloved town of Nags Head.

At 8:42 AM, Blogger Bob Muller said...

Now I know how a fish feels. You see that beautiful bait (bate) trolled right under your nose. It looks so tempting and attractive, designed to do only one thing, get you to bite it. That is a bad strategy for fish and a bad strategy for bloggers but sometimes its done so well you just can stop yourself.

To the person who wrote the second anonymous comment/troll/flame:

Sorry you don't like my style or my topics, I don't like yours very much either but it would help if you actually read the post before you wrote a comment. If you read the post you might discover that I actually agree with much of what Mr. Tourtellot says. As to the other issue you raise just 2 words:
DON"T LIE, The "Nags Head Nellie Myrtle Beachcomber Museum" was allowed to open on a very limited basis while I was Mayor, you say so in your post. It was allowed to open because the Town thought it was important that people see it and hoped the limited visitation would push the operators to move forward with plans to open it permanently.
DON"T LIE Neither I nor any other NH board member ever voted against the Museum. The only reason that the museum isn't open is because the owners NEVER submitted an application to be open and NEVER attempted to get any rules changed to allow them to open.
DON"T LIE There was and is enormous support for the Museum on the board but the Museum must take some positive action and give the town something that the town can approve. You can't grant it if it is not asked for. There are issues like parking, site plan, building code and ADA regulations that need to be resolved before the Museum can reach its full potential but they can be resolved if the Museum wants them resolved.
The people at the Museum know this, they have been told this time and time again. Go visit with Brant Murray if you want to know the real history of the Town and the Museum. I sleep OK at night when it comes to my efforts to preserve the Museum and the unpainted aristocracy.

You might want to read this post about how to be effective in this type of dialog and if you are looking for a new hobby I suggest tying flies. You have a real knack for bating people, maybe it would work with fish.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Bob Muller said...

Post script to my last comment.
If the owners of the Nellie Myrtle Musuem want help in developing a plan to get the museum open I will offer my help again. I will meet with them and town officials and work to find ways to get the museum open, in compliance with the federal, state and local ordinaces that cannot be avoided.


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