Wright Bridge / The Outer Banks Voice

NC - How do we reopen the Outer Banks to tourism so that we maintain our quality of life?

Dear Commissioners: Thank you for shouldering the tough jobs that you have. I appreciate the sacrifice that you make for the community every day.

Our business is struggling like every other business on the Outer Banks. We have furloughed almost 90% of our employees. If we’re fortunate enough to receive the PPP loans, those funds can cover only part of our expenses for a limited time; they do not make us whole.

Outer Banks businesses need to open back up at the earliest feasible time and do what business they can. They will still need assistance but at least it will give them a shot at surviving.

So that leads me to the question of how do we open up the Outer Banks to property owners and visitors so we can begin rebuilding our tourism industry, the lifeblood of the Outer Banks?

If I put on my public safety hat only, l don’t see reopening the Outer Banks until the vaccine is available, a year to 18 months from now. If that is the case, I see the tourism industry on the Outer Banks being wiped out. I say that because the health experts talk about the virus continuing in one place or another throughout the summer and fall. As you know, we get visitors from all over the US, so the threat of the virus will continue to exist for the Outer Banks.

If 100% assured public safety is the only question, then we won’t open the Outer Banks until there is a vaccine. But there must be a way to open the Outer Banks to visitors as soon as the Governor lifts the “stay at home” order. We are different than many resort destinations. We are a drive-to destination, low density, and we are accessed by bridges.

So, let’s explore how to use those bridges to proactively let our customers on the Outer Banks. How can we do that?

  1. Could we test visitors at bridges? Check temperature or a COVID-19 test?
  2. Could we ask visitors to provide certification from their doctors of tests or other certified testing?
  3. Could we set up operating guidelines for restaurants, retail businesses, outdoor businesses, vacation rentals, and other tourism service businesses to minimize the risk of spreading the virus? Possibly the Outer Banks Restaurant Association could develop guidelines for the restaurants. As a retailer, I would copy what Walmart, Dollar Tree and the grocery stores have found to work.

I don’t want Kitty Hawk Kites to die from the “bankruptcy virus,” and I don’t want my beloved Outer Banks to die from the “bankruptcy virus.” The tourism business bankruptcy virus will be followed by the “town and county virus,” which will be followed by the “school and public service virus.” I am so proud of what our community has done for our schools. I don’t want to see us lose ground. I remember what our schools were like in 1974 when I had the opportunity to move here.

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