In case you haven’t been paying attention, the summer season is banging on the door. Summer and all the mental images it conjures up. By now, most of us have had some sort of break or vacation. On my winter vacation in the United States Virgin Islands, there was a sign on St. John that read: “Tourism, it’s all of us.” The sign made me think of Cape May, its businesses and our residents. The sign made me wonder how we measured up in hospitality.
How many times have you read a story about city folk who move to the country only to complain that it’s too dark? Cape May is a tourist destination. No, it is a tourist Mecca. If we have chosen to live here, retire here or make your living here, the summer is time to bring your “A” game. We will wrangle over imitation lighthouses, beach cabanas and event houses, but we cannot wrangle about treating visiting tourists with respect, dignity and even gratitude.
In my twenties, in the early eighties, ARA Food Service sent me to Waterloo, Iowa in the Midwest. I was a city kid (young adult) swooped from the City of Brotherly Love and planted in a town where no one knew my name but everyone acted like they did or said hello. Complete strangers greeting me on the street had an impact on me that remained. Combine this with the closeness of inner city neighborhood life and I developed a foundation for hospitality. Hospitality, not just in business, but as a way of life.
I envision a Cape May where personal agendas are set aside. A Cape May where not only the natural beauty envelops you, but the warmth of the people too. One of the enduring experiences of my vacation was a jitney ride or safari taxi, as they call it in the islands. We do our best to blend in with the local community when we are away. At one stop on this taxi ride an elderly woman climbed aboard the open air taxi and bellowed a hearty “Good-morning to all on the taxi!” I will never know if this woman ever saw the sign on St John or got the memo from the tourism people, but she clearly embodied the slogan that tourism involved everyone.
There was a refreshing quote in a recent article discussing the sale of a popular local eatery. When asked if employees’ jobs were in jeopardy, the new owner replied, “They all are, if they are not team players with hospitality in their personality.” What I am sure was a shock to the employees made perfectly relevant sense to me. Hospitality in our personalities might just be a great branding slogan for Cape May.
The accountability desired by the new owner of the restaurant in transition, seems to be a good standard for all of us when it comes to tourism or any business. Cape May stands out against other branded destinations, with goliath budgets. The hospitality we show our visitors is one of the most important reasons why. It’s time for us all to say “Good morning!” to all who visit our town-the best town on the Jersey Shore. We are- Cape May!
Photo credit Aleksey of Cape May