Please tell us a little bit about the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau and your role(s) there.
The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau is the lead marketing and promotional agency for Dare County’s Outer Banks. We promote overnight visitation to the area and provide travel planning assistance online, by phone and in person at four local welcome centers. I am the Executive Director of the Bureau and it’s been my honor to have worked here for the last 15 years.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
No two days are the same. The dynamics of tourism, innovations with marketing and technology and the issues faced by our community are all ever-changing. I like the challenge of developing new approaches. I also enjoy consensus building – figuring out what brings different groups of people together.
You’ve recently launched a new “voluntourism” initiative. What is “voluntourism” and how can visitors to the Outer Banks get involved?
“Voluntourism” connects visitors with volunteer opportunities in the place they’re visiting. We’ve created an area on our website to share information about local nonprofit organizations and the volunteer opportunities they offer. You can access it by visiting www.outerbanks.org/voluntourism.
The voluntourism initiative is part of a bigger, more fundamental shift in how the Visitors Bureau and our governing body, the Dare County Tourism Board, regard tourism. We’ve recognized that tourism goes well beyond just dollars and cents. We have an opportunity to work with visitors, to help them become better stewards of the Outer Banks, to appreciate how special this place is environmentally, culturally and historically and to make them aware of how their actions and involvement affect the area. A lot of those impacts are good, and some are not. Our hope is that by involving visitors more directly with locals through volunteer efforts and the work of local nonprofit organizations, they’ll develop a deeper appreciation what it means to be a part of this community and have a sense of ownership for what it takes to care for our islands and way of life.
We are so grateful for the support you have given us over the years for projects like Pathways to Your National Parks, Artist in Community and others. For those who may not know, tell us about the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau’s Tourism Impact Grants that support our community.
We’re grateful for the hard work of groups like yours to develop and administer projects like these for the benefit of our visitors and community! The Tourism Board created grant programs, such as the Tourism Impact Grant (TIG), with a portion of our funding that’s devoted to “programs or services needed due to the impact of tourism.” Only Dare County governmental entities and nonprofits are eligible to receive grant dollars.
Over the years, the Board’s grants have provided approximately $20 million in funding and have helped 150 different local nonprofits via more than 600 grant awards. The awards have led to beach accesses, multi-use paths throughout Dare County, non-summer events and the great projects you mentioned, to name a few. The full list of awards and grant guidelines can be found at www.outerbanks.org/grants.
How do you see our nonprofit community here in the Outer Banks making an impact not just on residents, but also visitors?
Whether through the infrastructure and community-enhancing projects we were just talking about, volunteer opportunities, the great events being put on every year or the hard work being done every day, nonprofits are the heartbeat of the Outer Banks. Becoming more directly involved with local nonprofits gives visitors a more enrichening experience while they’re here and a special connection to this place.
Why are our Outer Banks national parks important to you, and what is your favorite way to enjoy them?
Our national parks are national treasures! They bring us together. They celebrate all that makes America great. My favorite way to enjoy the parks is through the ranger programs. The passion they have for what they do always comes through.
Speaking of national parks, you launched your “Leave No Trace” responsible travel and recreation campaign last year. What advice can you give concerning recreating responsibly in the Outer Banks?
The Outer Banks isn’t amazing by accident. It takes everyone doing their part to keep it that way. For me, the “Golden Rule” is kind of like the original “Leave No Trace”: Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Thanks for this opportunity! I’d just wish everybody a safe and happy summer. Look out for one another.
Special thanks to the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau for supporting our projects like Views from Your Parks webcams, Pathways to Your National Parks, the restoration of the signal tower at the Historic Hatteras Weather Bureau Station, and our newly launched Artist in Community program!