What are CAVEs?
According to the very brief Wikipedia article defining CAVEs (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) they have been “…linked to the so-called NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) phenomenon…”.
You know the type: one of many who visited a town (often first as a visitor), fell in love with the place, then bought a second home or in some cases relocated. NOW they want to close the beloved town and lock the gates behind them because visitors are “ruining everything.” They can’t find parking at the coffee shop or in front of their favorite store anymore, or go out to eat Saturday night at their favorite restaurant without a long wait, or get good tickets to the local theater for an upcoming performance.
As DMOs work on developing destination Marketing Action Plans (MAPs), it’s rare that CAVEs make their way onto DMO boards or task forces working on these marketing plans, but they often make their way into larger “community” MAP presentations.
Engaging with CAVEs
Having interacted with many CAVEs in my career (you’re not alone, they are everywhere!), my best advice is to let them know up front that you value their point of view and want to understand more about their concerns. Start a dialog by asking two questions:
What is it about growing tourism in our destination that worries you the most?
Some common comments are “more traffic, congestion, parking problems, etc.” Sometimes you will hear very odd or unexpected responses but it is important to understand each CAVE’s underlying perspective and unique concerns.
Can you think of three things you love about our community?
Virtually everything in your community is impacted in some way by travel and tourism so there are usually one or more things on their list that would be impacted or might not even exist at all in your destination if it were not for visitors.
No matter a CAVE’s history with your destination, they often will lament that the area “is just not how it used to be.” This description makes me think of a place that is “characterized by a lack of development, advancement, or progressive movement,” which is also a common definition for the term stagnant. Even though that term is NOT used to describe a place where residents (or visitors) want to be, when someone has a CAVE mentality, they are basically advocating for stagnation. Of course, if you mention this characterization, CAVEs will be greatly offended, so it is important to frame the next phase of your discussion in a much less caustic way. This is often where Tourism IS Economic Development is the next card to play – this round can really hit home for CAVEs, especially when you are in a group setting that includes several destination stakeholders.
To have confidence in the economic development discussion, it’s important to have a high level of understanding about some basic facts about your destination — see our Tourism IS Economic Development article for some thoughts on that. It is powerful when you can state off the top of your head the millions of dollars spent by visitors in your destination every year (it is a shocking number to almost everyone outside of the tourism & travel industry). And how that spending supports over ___ local jobs and generates at least $____ of tax dollars for our area. These are tax dollars no citizen has to pay out of pocket because people from out of town are leaving their money in our destination when they visit. And after these visitors leave, that money continues to circulate in our destination several times and earns additional tax revenue along the way.
The next logical point is that a fair portion of this $___ million dollars that is being spent goes to local businesses — many that you love but that could not survive solely with locals and no outside visitors. At this point it is extremely favorable to have several local (very well liked by residents and visitors) business owners in the group who will speak up and reiterate that they would likely not be in business and their ____ number of employees would not have jobs if it was not for visitors to your destination. It is also very helpful if these are NOT hoteliers, try to have a favorite local restaurant, specialty store or some stakeholders that make your destination unique and special in the eyes of residents (and visitors).
In the end, the question you want to create in the mind of CAVEs is: “what would my town be like without the… local theater, coffee shop, BBQ joint, etc?” Or more simply: “what would my town be like without the tourism and travel industry?” Then hopefully you have converted the selfish into the selfless.