I believe it’s safe to say that the first weekend the Galveston beaches opened after the COVID–19 shelter-in-place order was lifted was a complete train wreck.
Certainly, there was no way for our city officials to know that many of the folks that came to the island were going to behave like animals or that hundreds of cars would just drive up and down the seawall.
That said, I personally know of families that brought their children and had a beautiful time on our beaches and left them without a trace of ever being there. Just like we hope that everyone who visits our beaches would treat them.
But no ... some folks blatantly threw their trash in the street rather than the trash can. Sadly, when a resident pointed out to our island “guest” that he “missed,” he was punched in the face. My friend witnessed two women fist fighting outside The Spot. Seriously, what was that about? Could it be breaking in line to get their food, or the line to the bathroom, or just loitering and got in each other’s way?
So I wonder, who were these island visitors and why all the anger and hostility? You would think they would be happy to be here.
Galveston survives on tourism and its related revenue. I’ve asked myself all week, did these tourists actually spend money here? There were plenty of restaurants open at 25 percent capacity and offering to-go orders. Did they take advantage of this? I know few came downtown to shop or eat because it was noticeably quiet all weekend.
And since the bars weren’t open, I must assume that their drunkenness was achieved because they brought their own alcohol. Therefore, it’s safe to assume if they packed an ice chest for their cocktails, they probably packed a picnic too. So in summary, they arrived, spent no money, trashed the beaches and beat each other up.
OK, maybe I exaggerate, or do I? Social media blew up all weekend with locals horrified over the treatment of their beloved island. When the mayor’s recommendation was for locals to just stay home on the weekends, I could literally hear minds blowing all over the island.
Galveston is historically known for its reputation of debauchery. But we certainly aren’t sending that vibe now, are we? That reputation and related stories are what our historical tours and museums are all about.
This leads me to the age-old question that tourist towns across the country have been asking forever, how do we attract the “right” tourists? And who are the “right” tourists? What does that even mean? I don’t know.
But what I do know is that our city officials, the incredible folks working tirelessly at the park board, the chamber of commerce, convention and visitors bureau and so many others are losing sleep trying to figure it out. And for that, I’m most grateful.