Durham resident: People 'shouldn't be afraid' to visit after recent protests
Posted August 17, 2017 4:23 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 9:55 a.m. EDT
Durham County, N.C. — Every county in the Triangle saw an uptick in tourism dollars last year, but Durham outpaced them all with a 6.6 percent increase. Local leaders are now afraid recent protests could have a negative impact on that success.
The video of protesters taking down a Confederate statue thrust Durham into the international spotlight, causing some to increase their respect for the city and others to lose it.
“We’ve heard from several visitors. This is a highly-charged, emotional type of thing,” said Shelly Green, president and CEO of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Some folks have said they’re canceling their visit to Durham because they don’t like what happened and others are applauding the action, so it’s been a mixed bag.”
Green said the number of responses she’s received about the toppling of the Confederate statue Monday night is similar to the response her office received when House Bill 2 passed. She said many are wondering if it’s still safe to visit Durham.
“Durham is no more or less safe than it was five days ago and, for that matter, Charlottesville is no more or less safe than it was two weeks ago,” Green said.
Green said many tourists have said they’re concerned for their safety and fear that incidents similar to the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va., will take place in Durham.
“I understand it might have seemed a little violent to some people, and I hope people don’t take that as a reason not to come here because they shouldn’t be afraid,” said resident Joshua Allen. “People are wonderful here and friendly, and we want to treat people equally, and that’s what the protest was about. I don’t think it was about scaring people.”
Those who love Durham hope the recent news attention doesn’t set the city back.
“There’s always some haters out there that will use this to say ‘See, I told you it’s a dangerous place.’ We don’t pay much attention to them. There are just as many or more saying the opposite of that,” Green said.
The Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau wasn’t the only agency getting calls about Monday’s incident. The county manager and sheriff’s office have also received an increase in phone calls, and in the county clerk’s office, they’ve created a map to show how many states they’ve received calls from.