February 23, 2022

Greetings on behalf of the Buncombe County TDA

Thirty-nine community projects have benefited from nearly $44 million in community investment by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. Support through the Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) comes from 25% of the lodging tax paid by guests to our community.

A new TPDF grant cycle in 2022 got the greenlight in this week’s board meeting. As of January financials, there is $11.1 million available in the fund, and it’s projected to reach $15 million by the end of this fiscal year. Deadlines and dates for applications and award announcements have been established. The TPDF Committee is now in place, responsible for making funding recommendations based on grant requirements mandated by state legislation.

Additional criteria for evaluating projects have been developed for alignment with BCTDA’s strategic imperatives. These include consideration for how projects will engage visitors with shared values to care for and respect natural, cultural, and human resources vital in delivering quality guest experiences, in alignment with the Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel pillar.

Status reports at today's meeting on active TPDF projects included the Woodfin Greenway & Blueway ($2.25 million grant) and the Enka Recreation Destination ($6 million grant) – Buncombe County projects that benefit residents and visitors alike – and for which BCTDA is a major financial supporter.

Today's agenda also included an update on the African American Heritage Trail, a TPDF-supported project that aligns with another strategic imperative: Engage & Invite More Diverse Audiences. Other progress and key results aimed at extending a genuine invitation to Black travelers and other diverse audiences, including LGBTQ+ visitors, includes major investment in Black-owned media and plans for hosting diversity training opportunities for staff and partners. We hope you'll join us.

Destination Performance Update

Hotel partners rebound as room demand in 2021 exceeds pre-pandemic levels; local residents with vacation rentals continue to benefit

"Room Demand" is the total number of hotel rooms or rentals sold or rented, excluding complimentary rooms. In 2021, total room demand for hotel partners finally recovered to – and slightly exceeded – 2019 levels, hitting more than 2.2 million. Demand for vacation rentals grew to nearly 1.7 million, increasing 43% over the benchmark year of 2019.

Near-balanced occupancy between hotels & vacation rentals in January 2022

In January, hotel occupancy was 45%, compared to vacation rentals at 49%. For vacation rental owners, occupancy was up six points from 2019 levels; hotel occupancy was down five points from 2019.

VIEW: Destination Performance Metrics

Tourism Product Development Fund Update

Enka Recreation Destination + Woodfin Greenway & Blueway

With major support from Buncombe County TDA, projects in Enka and Woodfin offer greenways, sports & recreation for residents as well as visitors

With a $6 million Tourism Product Develop Fund grant, the Enka Recreation Destination is expected to be complete in September. The Buncombe County-led project will offer connectivity between the Buncombe County Sports Park, the Bob Lewis Ballpark, the A-B Tech Enka Campus, Enka Intermediate School, nearby neighborhoods, and Enka Commerce Park, with sidewalks, greenways, multi-use athletic fields, a dog park, wheelchair accessible swing, and more. The Buncombe County TDA and the NC Department of Transportation each contributed $6 million to this ambitious community project among other funding sources.

Components of the Woodfin Greenway & Blueway – recipient of a $2.25 million TPDF grant – are in various stages of completion. One is Silver-Line Park, featuring expansive riverfront views, a playground and boat launch, opening in April. Another, the highly anticipated Whitewater Wave, expected to begin construction next year, will incorporate natural rock anchored to the river bed to form waves, eddies, and other features for recreation, instruction, and competitive uses.

These projects offer amenities for residents of all ages, as well as for visitors. With locations to the west and north of Asheville, they also align with the BCTDA's strategic pillar to Deliver Balanced Recovery & Sustainable Growth, which includes efforts to disperse visitors geographically across Buncombe County.

VIEW: Presentations on TPDF-Supported County Projects

TPDF-supported African American Heritage Trail moves into Interpretive Planning Phase with insights from new Advisory Committee

Eighteen local residents with deep local knowledge and varying age demographics have joined an advisory committee to provide insight and recommendations on the direction of Asheville’s African American Heritage Trail, shepherded by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority and supported through the Tourism Product Development Fund. Expected for completion in 2023, the trail will connect historic Black communities in and around downtown Asheville.

VIEW: Presentation on African American Heritage Trail Update
PRESS RELEASE: African American Heritage Trail Advisory Committee

Awards for community projects via Tourism Product Development Fund this year will equal BCTDA's investment in paid advertising

The Buncombe County TDA is opening a TPDF grant cycle this year. The process was paused in 2019 (see more here). In 2020, $5 million in TPDF revenue was used to create the one-time emergency Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund, providing pandemic relief that helped nearly 400 local small businesses safely reopen and protect jobs for local people.

In today's meeting, the BCTDA appointed new members to the TPDF Committee. Key dates for the 2022 grant cycle include an information session for interested applicants on May 4. The deadline for Phase 1 applications is June 1 and grant awards will be approved and announced at the authority's October meeting.

The fund balance available for TPDF as of today's meeting is $11.1 million, with projections of $15.1 million to be available by the end of the current fiscal year. As a point of comparison, Explore Asheville's paid media budget is $10.7 million for fiscal year 2022 and the total marketing budget is $15.3 million for FY22.

VIEW: Presentation on TPDF 2022 Grant Cycle
LEARN MORE: TPDF Program Application Info & Timeline

Strategic Pillar Update:
Engage & Invite More Diverse Audiences

Marketing plans include a minimum of $1 million in paid media to Black-owned media publishers & creators

The Buncombe County TDA's strategic imperative Engage & Invite More Diverse Audiences aims to extend a genuine invitation to Black travelers and other diverse audiences, including LGBTQ+ visitors, aiming to connect more diverse audiences with local neighborhoods, businesses and entrepreneurs.

Explore Asheville has committed to invest a minimum of $1 million in paid media to Black-owned media publishers and creators as well, as a minimum of three marketing partnerships to engage Black and LGBTQ+ audiences. In her presentation to the board, Senior VP of Marketing Marla Tambellini outlined some of ways Explore Asheville is progressing on this pillar to create more opportunities for all to win.


To accelerate our community's efforts to extend genuine invitations to diverse audiences, Explore Asheville has engaged with HospitableMe, a global leader in inclusive hospitality, and NOMADNESS Travel Tribe, an online social community primarily for travelers of color with more than 25,000 members, to provide training to our internal team and tourism partners.

HospitableMe will present "Everyone Welcome: LGBTQ Diverse Audience Training," a 90-minute, in-person learning event on March 30 at the Wortham Center for Performing Arts. In May, NOMADNESS founder Evita Robinson will conduct Black traveler diversity training for staff and partners as part of Explore Asheville's annual Tourism Summit. Watch for information on these opportunities.

Multi-layer content campaigns shine a spotlight on some of the diverse people, places & experiences that make up Asheville’s unique culture

A new, multi-layered content campaign created by Explore Asheville highlights leaders in the community who have made significant contributions to Asheville and the Black community. Launched at the start of Black History Month, the campaign includes short profile videos featuring Matthew Bacoate Jr.(shown above, clockwise from top left), Dr. Oralene Simmons, Black Wall Street AVL, featuring J Hackett and Bruce Waller, and Andrea Clark.

A new landing page on ExploreAsheville.com is under development that celebrates the Black Asheville experience. Visitors will get a full sense of Asheville’s Black culture by learning about its history, experiences and Black-owned businesses.  

VIEW: Video Profiles

Find meeting documents and a recording of the February 23 board meeting HERE >>

Thursday, March 24 | 9 a.m.–11 a.m.
Registration & other details will be posted HERE >>

Friday, March 25 | 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Registration & other details will be posted HERE >>

Deliver Balanced Recovery & Sustainable Growth | Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel |
Engage & Invite More Diverse Audiences | Promote & Support Asheville's Creative Spirit


Established by state law to administer the occupancy tax paid by overnight visitors according to the enabling legislation, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority is a public authority with a public purpose to enhance the economic vitality of Buncombe County. It is led by 11 local, appointed volunteers (two of whom are ex-officio members) who provide professional expertise to ensure the effective use of the tax to benefit our community and the people who live here. BCTDA meetings are open to the public.

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