“Back in the day” is a stupid phrase. What does it mean? Back in what day? Whose day? How far back?
All right. Now that Jody’s word snit is over, let’s get to the blog, starting with the stupid phrase.
Back in the day, vacation rentals on North Caicos were few and simple. Some people who had beachfront homes would rent them by the week when the houses were otherwise empty. They used their back-home connections, joined up with VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) or ran a simple website. Their customers were travelers who liked getting off the beaten path and didn’t expect resort amenities.
Fast-forward to now. Airbnb has grown globally, to the point where some cities consider it to be detrimental to neighborhoods (see The New Yorker’s recent article on its effect on Barcelona). And on North Caicos, many people are getting in on the act, renting rooms in their homes and unleashing tourists with little information on island life. The guests arrive with no guidance about how/where to shop, the differences in public and private property, the fact that driving is on the left, the need for four-wheel drive in some areas, or the general displeasure toward wearing swimsuits into places of business. It’s a DIY existence that leads to misunderstandings and contempt on each side of the tourist/resident divide.
This is unfortunate, and perhaps avoidable. I can’t do much to help educate tourists (except to keep blogging in the hopes that those who care to do their homework will learn something), but here are some suggestions for people who want to rent space to those tourists. The ideas come from my brief time renting portions of my house, both short- and long-term.
If you rent…
… expect your property to take a beating. There will be some who don’t respect your home or furnishings. They will mar and punch drywall while moving furniture to suit them. They will burn food in your pans, then put the hot pans on wood surfaces. They will leave garbage to attract vermin. They will use good knives to puncture cans. Et cetera.
… expect your power bill to increase. If you have air conditioning, some will keep it on constantly, and some will even leave it on while doors and windows are open.
… don’t expect vacationers to understand about water conservation. Most of them come from places where water is always there all the time, not stored in a cistern and used carefully in dry months.
… provide a book of info about the island. Some will have done research in advance, but don’t assume that everyone does so.
… don’t throw your neighbors under the bus. Yes, tell your guests that the beaches are public, but also point out where the beach access roads are. Don’t make someone else the villain when they have to tell people their yards are private. Likewise, tell guests that there aren’t public restrooms, and it’s not cool to use the facilities in a business without patronizing that business.
… and please, please, please don’t promise what isn’t there! Don’t pretend there’s a swimming pool, beach toys, food delivery or a shopping mall if you yourself are not going to provide them. The gap between expectations and reality is the biggest “tourist problem” North Caicos has.
If you are getting into the tourist business, do your own homework, learn the laws, and be considerate. For all our sakes.