Community asked to welcome summer travelers with kindness
“Be Kind and Rewind”, perhaps one of the most far-reaching messages of the ‘80s and ‘90s, serving as a simple reminder to think about your impact on others. For those unfamiliar with it, back when there were rotary phones and cassette tapes, there were few things more annoying than popping a movie into the VCR only to have it shoot back out because it needed rewinding.
In the current age of DVDs and Netflix, the phrase, “Be Kind and Rewind” has become obsolete, but its meaning has not. It is a message that is more important than ever and a lesson that we need to practice as individuals to be shared with each other. There are layers to the challenges the upcoming tourist season is going to bring. An approach of kindness, respect and patience will become vital for our business owners and staff.
Visitors to our area are going to experience pain points during their travel. Glacier National Park has instituted a reservation system limiting the number of vehicles each day into West Glacier and over Going-to-the-Sun Road. The tickets, released 60 days in advance, are selling out as soon as they are available. Many are counting on the ability to secure a reservation in the 48-hour window of last-minute tickets released. Many are going to be disappointed.
Rental cars this summer are virtually non-existent, yet people are still planning their trips. They are unaware of the limited public transportation and rideshare services in the area. They do not realize that the airport itself is miles from anything. Or that their destination is likely 20-plus minutes away. And that when they arrive there will be no taxi line waiting for them. Or that travel in the area without a secured mode of transportation is not feasible.
Everyone will be experiencing more crowds and traffic than ever before since we are projected to experience record visitation. And all of us — lifelong residents, first-time visitors, and recently relocated families alike — will be shopping, eating and interacting within an overworked and understaffed business community.
The Montana Department of Labor estimates 10,000-15,000 people have left the workforce since the onset of COVID. Many have left the state, many have lost their childcare (1/3 of childcare facilities never reopened) and there are some who are taking advantage of federal aid and postponing their return to thankless jobs. Despite increased wages and incentives, the seasonal workforce is just not here.
All of this has the potential to erupt at any given moment, with any given customer interface, if we do not make the effort to practice intentional kindness in our day-to-day interactions. This summer a meaningful smile, a sincere thank you or a generous tip could make the difference in a person’s day, which could exponentially grow to make a difference in someone’s trip.
Think of this summer as an exercise in hospitality, even if you do not work in the industry. As outdated as it may be, the message still applies “Be Kind and Rewind.” We just needed to be reminded.