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Well, that day sure came fast!
The first day of the 2013 tourist season, that is. It begins Saturday, when the Crystal Symphony claims first-ship honors. Details of what’s expected in this season can be read in today’s page 1 article.
Specifics aside, though, most of us who have lived in Ketchikan know that we are about to begin bumping into thousands of folks on the trip of their lives, starting Saturday.
They are in a vacation state of mind, and sometimes need our help. We gently urge them to step back from oncoming traffic as they stand mid-Mission Street, snapping photos of the “Welcome” arch and oblivious to the peril they have their backs to.
We’ve all been there — done things on vacation we would never do at home, because we just aren’t thinking.
We’ve all gotten lost, too, so when we see folks scratching their heads while staring at a piece of paper (maybe a map) and looking around, it’s a good idea to ask if we can help them find someplace. We’ve all also benefited from strangers’ kindness when we’ve been in foreign lands. To many of our visitors, even those who are Americans, Alaska is “foreign.” (That’s why some tourists ask if we take American money here — they’re mixed up, and sometimes they’ve been to Canada. Answer, “Yes,”?and forgive them.)
The look of tourists is a bit different from when the ships first started coming, back in the day. Then, many of the passengers were elderly, and it was helpful to imagine them as our own grandparents. It’s a snap to treat people well when we imagine our own family members in our visitors’ position. Nowadays, the family member we picture might be our brothers or children — the gamut of ages and ethnicities is seen in our visitors.
There are more practical reasons to be nice to tourists. If not for them, many of us would not have jobs. If not for them, many of us would not benefit from the taxes they pay. When one segment of our economy benefits, we all thrive.
But economics aside, isn’t it great to live in a place people dream about visiting, and then do? Even on rainy days, it is breathtakingly beautiful here. We love seeing them and talking to them. The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau has the right idea in its motto of “Our lifestyle, your reward.” We live in paradise, even if it’s misty.
Let’s lay out the welcome mat. Here’s to the new season. Smile pretty, and make new friends.