Upon reflection, it is not difficult to understand why. Cornwall had been relatively spared from the worst impacts of the pandemic, with lower infection rates. Nonetheless, local residents felt vulnerable to infection for two reasons:
As a result, local residents were apprehensive about the potential introduction of the virus into the county through an influx of visitors from areas with higher infection rates. Locals were alarmed by images of day visitors crowding onto beaches in places like Bournemouth. This behaviour, which local residents believed increased their health risks, further fueled their concerns.
While one in five jobs depends on tourism, the majority of residents, comprising four in five, are not directly reliant on this industry. Moreover, with a significant number of retired individuals in the county, there is a sizable majority for whom tourism is seen as more of a curse than a blessing, even in normal times.
Subsequently, the arrival of visitors only confirmed the concerns of locals, with complaints including:
Media reports quoted locals as being "too scared to go out," feeling "forced back into shielding," and keeping their children away from the beaches and other areas of the town. Some even expressed their animosity towards tourists.
In addition to concerns about increased infection risks, residents also highlighted long-standing grievances regarding the impact of tourism:
It is evident that local residents were understandably anxious about the heightened risks of infection, which further brought into focus their ongoing concerns and complaints regarding the impact of tourism.
The sheer influx of visitors to Cornwall made it challenging to enforce social control. Mass tourism tends to impose its behaviour patterns on resident populations, leaving them feeling powerless. Consequently, conflicts arise between those who benefit from tourism and those who bear the consequences. As a result, Cornwall's community finds itself divided.
Despite the absence of the virus on the island, there was a much more relaxed attitude towards the lifting of lockdown restrictions. Several factors help explain this:
The population of Islay is only 3,200, creating a small, tightly knit community with a seemingly unified approach to the threat of COVID-19. Ultimately, health took precedence over profit for Islay.
Perhaps that was because locals avoided contact with visitors as much as possible and followed government advice. The tourist industry in Cornwall managed to recover at least some of the lost revenue. However, whether all residents of Cornwall felt that the risks justified the situation remains an open question.
Regarding the threat posed by COVID-19, the lifting of lockdown and resumption of tourism in Islay was manageable, with a perception that the situation was under control. The same could not be said for the residents of Cornwall.
The coronavirus will still be present, and travel restrictions may continue to be in place. Therefore, "staycations" are likely to become part of the "new normal." It will be interesting to see how residents of other holiday destinations react if they come under similar pressure.
The author of this blog visited Islay in early September 2020, and the comments and perceptions shared are based on conversations with local residents.