Experiencing a record tourist season from a local’s perspective certainly makes you more mindful of the locals when we travel elsewhere. In fact, some locals refer to holidays as the Tourist Invasion. So next time you go on holidays, spare a thought for the locals who are making it happen.
It’s Christmas holidays and you could be excused for thinking our sleepy seaside town has been Invaded by a flotilla of inflatable unicorns. The holidaymakers have arrived to enjoy a few weeks of sun, sand and fishing on our pristine waterways. As locals living in a tourist hot-spot, it also gives us a timely reminder of the impact on locals when we travel elsewhere.
Merry Christmas – the holiday makers are here
Our deserted beaches are packed, accommodation is booked to capacity and our restaurants and cafes are doing a roaring summer trade. For the locals who head to the beach with nothing but a towel and a ball for the dogs, we can’t help but giggle at the tourists lugging eskies, beach shades, boogie boards and this year’s fad – inflatable unicorns. The floating beach toys certainly outnumber the Pelicans on Mummaga Lake this season.
According to our Shire’s tourism statistics, last year around 300,000 people visited Narooma and surrounding villages, with a resident population of just 9,000. Around half of these would visit during the month of January.
Many locals groan at the perceived “tourist invasion”, but for most we welcome the tourist dollars, which ensure we have facilities, businesses and importantly jobs during the quieter winter months. It is the time for businesses and workers to make the most of our major industry – tourism.
Most of us make a few sensible preparations for the busy season. Such as stocking up on a month’s worth of non-perishables at the supermarket late in December so we don’t have to go into town until the end of January.
We also have a few hidden places we keep quiet so we can still enjoy our beaches during the busy period. We simply stay away from the major spots and leave the tourists to enjoy them.
There is also a growing trend for people to rent out their homes on AirBNB for the month and escape the tourists to their own holiday destination. This seems to have increased the visitor numbers this year.
There’s still a few spots we like to keep a secret from the tourists
Many of us welcome, some of us tolerate the tourists, but we all do still have to go about our daily lives. The vast majority of visitors are laid back, friendly and appreciate the enormous efforts the working population are making to ensure they have a great holiday. Many of them are annual visitors whom we welcome back as friends each year. They enjoy our relaxed rural lifestyle for a few weeks each year.
But then there are the minority who seem oblivious to the fact that people actually live here
Tourists we love to hate
These are the visitors with a breathtaking level of either ignorance or self entitlement. Or they are so selfish they simply don’t care.
The bistro in which I work has exploded from around 50 meals a night to 300. This is no surprise given the council stats I mentioned earlier show that 95 per cent of visitors eat out. Like every other tourist business in town, most of us are currently working 21 days straight to cater for the busy tourist season.
We are all tired, yet still welcome you with a smile and do our best to meet your needs. So there is no need to be rude about having to wait for your meal or to get served at the grocery store. You are part of the reason there is a queue
Yes, we may have run out of something, or simply not stock what you are after. It is not the waitress / cashier’s fault. We are not in the city and getting supplies takes time, particularly over public holidays.
Parking is at a premium, yet there are still those selfish enough to park parallel in an angle parking area to ensure their car stays in the shade, taking up three spaces. Or across driveways, in no parking zones, or blocking the roadway completely.
At least we are faring much better than the town a little to the north. An overly successful marketing campaign is drawing 1000 visitors a day to a small beach accommodating 400 car spaces. Tourists parking in driveways and blocking roads forced that council to set up traffic monitors to turn visitors away once parking was at capacity.
The little mixed business around the corner from our home is our grocery store, bottle shop and petrol station. With a popular campground opposite, it is always very busy during January. Even shopping early to be at the door when it opens, buying bread and milk can still take half an hour.
I tried unsuccessfully to fuel up three times one day last week. On a number of occasions, someone had thought it was quite acceptable to park in front of both the (only two) petrol bowsers while they did their grocery shop or headed off to the beach. It isn’t.
Nor is parking your campervan on the grass verge outside my home, because it is illegal to park at the beach overnight and you don’t want to pay for a campsite.
Just plain rude
Then there are the two American tourists who rolled into our Bistro quite late one evening, looking for advice on where to stay.
Well, the town is fully booked you’ll be very lucky and all the receptions will be closed now anyway.
No, we don’t open 24/7. Yes, even if you book through an online portal, they won’t see it at this time of night.
One of the locals phoned a friend, who did have a room in their motel available. Possibly the only room in town that night.
“Thanks so much”? you might think would be the response.
No, checking the google reviews, “Oh, there are some reviews that say it isn’t value for money”. Well sleep in your car, we thought, just not in my driveway.
Then there are the free-campers who simply don’t care. The photo which has circulated widely in local media says it all. Would you do this in your own home?
Next time you go on holidays, spare a thought for the locals and be the tourists we love to welcome back.