Tourism and Change

Adam Xenides

Hoopers Island Expeditions

Principles of Tourism

The definition of tourism as a noun - 1. the activity or practice of touring, especially for pleasure. 2. the business or industry of providing information, accommodations, transportation, and other services to tourists. 3. the promotion of tourist travel, especially for commercial purposes. 

Tourism has become an important, even vital, source of income for many regions and counties in Maryland. This activity is essential to the life of an area, because of its direct effects on the social, cultural, educational, and economic sectors in our area. 

Tourism brings large amounts of income into a local economy in the form of payment for “goods and services” needed by tourists. It also generates opportunities for employment in the service sector of the economy associated with tourism. 

Service industries which benefit from tourism include transportation services, hospitality services, and entertainment venues - parks, restaurants, shopping outlets, and music venues. This is in addition to goods bought by tourists including souvenirs.

Many leisure-oriented tourists travel to seaside resorts on their nearest coast. There is also niche tourism, referring to the numerous specialty forms of tourism that have emerged, ie.. agritourism, culinary tourism, culture tourism, geotourism, and heritage tourism etc.. Sustainable tourism is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, and biological diversity. Simply - sustainable development implies meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

Ecotourism is responsible travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas that strives to be low impact and small scale. It helps educate the traveler - provides funds for conservation - directly benefits the economic development and political empowerment of local communities - and fosters respect for different cultures. 

My company, Hoopers Island Expeditions, works very hard to provide premier services in this regard. We have come to a cross roads in our relationship with our local tourism office. We firmly believe tourism is -  the business or industry of providing information, accommodations, transportation, and other services to tourists and the promotion of tourist travel, especially for commercial purposes. 

Recently a film - “High Tide in Dorchester” made its debut this year. It is a film about climate change, and the effects of sea level rise - specifically sea level rise affects erosion and flooding in Dorchester County. I have many thoughts about the film, however, I would encourage people to see it for themselves, and draw their own conclusions. 

What does “High Tide in Dorchester” have to do with tourism? Nothing. The fact it has nothing to do with the promotion of tourism businesses in our area, is why we take issue with it. Our business provides goods and services to tourists, and the county tourism posts and shares this film on their tourism social media. Tourism and personal beliefs are two different things, promoting or sharing this film on our county tourism sites breaks all the principles of tourism as described above. I disagree with the film in the regard that it changes peoples perception of this area negatively, this change in perception fails the yardstick measure in regards to tourism - does it directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities and foster respect for different cultures? It does not. It makes it harder and another obstacle for the local residents and businesses to go through and justify keeping our waterways maintained, roads maintained, renewing flood insurance, it hurts our tourism dollars - plain and simple. If you do not believe me search social media for “High Tide in Dorchester” and read the comments, a typical response is, “these people live in an area most of us cannot and want the federal government to pay for their homes when they are flooded - they need to move”, this perception is a concern. 

I take this perception personally. Please allow me to explain. I have lived on Hoopers Island since 1994. My wife at the time, Abbie Flowers was from Hoopers Island, so we got married here, and settled down. (Her family, the Flowers, have dealt with erosion and flooding since the late 1800’s. In the early 1900’s her family moved their house from Barren Island on a scowl to what is now called Flowers Cove on Hoopers Island). We started building a family with the birth of Sarah, born with down syndrome in December 2001. In late September 2003, Tropical Storm Isabel came through and flooded and damaged many homes in this area including mine. Two weeks later, October 7, 2003, my youngest daughter, Norah was born. We were still working on our house, still did not have running water or heat from the flooding, but we managed to make things work. Four days after Norah was born, my wife Abbie became ill and passed away unexpectedly. I found myself in a position of suddenly raising to 2 young kids by myself, rebuilding my home and property, and struggling with a decision, do I stay and rebuild or move. I choose to stay, and keep Hoopers Island as my home. I put everything I had into my home and property rebuilding. I also had to make other decisions, I recognized I could not have a career and be a mom and dad to my daughters at the same time. I sacrificed having a career to doing what I needed to do make things work, and be there for my children. (I have since remarried in 2016, and now raise 4 kids here with my wife Chandra). The first year, 2003 - 2004 I worked every day and weekends rebuilding with family and friends, while at night taking care of my daughters, and dealing with Norah who had colic for the first year, and many sleepless nights taking care of her. At the same time, many of you many not know, but Dorchester County did not have a housing program or authority at this time. Before and after Isabel, I was working for a non-profit where we were worked hard through the Maryland Dept of Housing and Community Development to address the flooded and damaged homes in lower Dorchester, in addition to coordinating the donated goods and services to residents in need. I wrote many of the initial block grants to build a housing program for Dorchester County and the City of Cambridge. I and others worked with the affected homeowners, I knew and felt what the sense of loss and helplessness  those affected by the flooding felt. I can also tell you the film makers where not around in this capacity. I can also tell you the Maryland Dept of Housing and Community Development did not want to even be perceived as buying out properties from the homeowners affected at a fire sale loss. If the government was to buy out homeowners as suggested in the film, with federal funds,  it would more than likely have to be through the Maryland Dept of Housing and Community Development.  

In the film Blackwater Refuge (federal entity) National Audubon Society (a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to conservation), Friends of Blackwater Refuge (a non-profit) a professor from Salisbury University suggest homeowners and property owners should be bought out. Now consider - our county tourism promotes these organizations tirelessly over other businesses that actually provide tourism services - guiding, fishing, hunting, boating, and lodges, we see a clash of cultures, with our tourism direction and the actual users of our tourism services.

 I can tell you, as a guide - its the hardworking guides and outfitters that work tirelessly promoting the area, and sharing their insights on the environment, wildlife and fisheries. It is the guides that bring tourism to this area. 

When I watched and read the comments regarding the film, I felt a threat to everything that I have worked for and invested in, which is why I feel so strongly about this. I made the business decision to no longer support Visit Dorchester, and asked that all Hoopers Island Expeditions and Adam Xenides associated media be removed from their sites. When you promote a film that has nothing to do with tourism, over businesses that actually provide goods and services to the tourism industry, we take exception to that, it is bad business. This is all we have to say on the matter, and will not comment on it again. 

We will continue to provide premier and outstanding guiding services to our clients and promote the area with our own marketing materials and media.  Our business is generated 99.9% by word of mouth from our clients. We will continue to be a humble, honest, and hardworking - authentic guide service. 

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Hoopers Island, MD