April 28, 2022

Greetings on behalf of the Buncombe County TDA

Two of Buncombe County's newest parks opened in the past week. Silver-Line Park, a major milestone in the Woodfin Greenway & Blueway project, features boat ramp access to the French Broad River, picnic shelters, a playground, and a greenway and walking trails. Across town to the west, the Buncombe County Sports Park, part of the Enka Recreation Destination, now welcomes furry friends and their owners to the County's first dog park.

Both the Enka Recreation Destination and the Woodfin Greenway & Blueway, enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, received major financial support from Buncombe County TDA with grants from the Tourism Product Development Fund. The fund, which comes from a portion of lodging taxes paid by visitors to our community, has contributed to 39 community projects through nearly $44 million in community investment by the BCTDA.

This week the Buncombe County TDA officially opens the Tourism Product Development Fund grant cycle for 2022. With $15 million expected to be available to Buncombe County nonprofits and municipal partners for capital projects, the fund is already attracting interest and excitement for its continued enhancement of our community through investment in destination assets.

The TPDF 2022 Program Guide is now available on AshevilleCVB.com, which includes additional criteria for evaluating potential projects for alignment with BCTDA’s strategic imperatives. We are hosting a virtual information session on May 4 for interested applicants. Phase I applications are due June 1 and the Buncombe County TDA will announce awards at the end of October.

Please help us share this good news.


2022 Tourism Product Development Fund Grant Cycle Officially Launches

Information session for potential applicants takes place May 4

Buncombe County nonprofits and municipal partners are invited to submit applications to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority for grant support through the Tourism Product Development Fund. The following is a timeline for 2022:

  • APRIL 27: 2022 Program Guide Released + Application Portal Opens for Phase I
  • MAY 4: Information Session for prospective applicants [3-4:30 p.m., held virtually. Register here]
  • JUNE 1: Deadline for Phase I applications
  • JUNE 29: Phase I applicants notified & invited to Phase II
  • AUG. 31: Deadline for Phase II applications
  • SEPT. 29 & 30: Phase II review & project presentations
  • OCT. 10 & 11: Site visits
  • OCT. 29: Grant awards announced at BCTDA board meeting

A public awareness campaign in local media outlets about the Tourism Product Development Fund is underway. Because North Carolina legislation does not allow the use of occupancy tax revenue for local advertising, the campaign is funded using earned revenue. [See sample ad here.]

MORE INFO: Tourism Product Development Fund >>


Jobs Are Back, Post-Pandemic, But Challenges Remain
All industry sectors in region & across the state continue to struggle with labor shortages

According to statistics released this week by the NC Dept. of Commerce, the Asheville MSA (Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties) has almost reclaimed its status as having the lowest unemployment rate in North Carolina – a record it held for 61 consecutive months before April 2020. Buncombe County alone stands at 2.9%; the state average by county is 3.6%.

But Hospitality & Tourism joins Advanced Manufacturing, Healthcare, Skilled Trades, and Tech/IT in facing labor shortages, despite the fact that average wages in Hospitality & Tourism in our region are 12% higher than the state average in the sector.

It's an issue that arose during Buncombe County TDA's recent annual planning session, prompting a workforce development presentation at the April BCTDA meeting. Nathan Ramsey, Executive Director of the Land of Sky Regional Council and Director of the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board, provided insights that included stats and graphs like the one shown above, which illustrates the significant growth in jobs over the past three decades in the Hospitality & Tourism sector and reflects impacts of the pandemic.

Travel & hospitality workforce development: Introducing job opportunities & career paths to the next generation

"We have a math problem." That's how Nathan Ramsey described one of the labor force challenges facing employers today – that is, there are more jobs than there are people to fill them. One potential solution is finding opportunities to reach students at the high school level (or even younger) to introduce them to the wide variety of career choices in travel and hospitality.

Travel + Tourism Partners at High School Career Fair 2022

Explore Asheville recently led an effort to do just that. At a career fair organized by Buncombe County Schools, nearly two dozen travel and hospitality partners engaged with students from nine high schools to introduce them to the sector. Four hundred students attended the event, where they had the chance to learn about jobs in lodging, attractions, outdoor recreation, food and beverage, and more.

DOWNLOAD: Workforce Development Presentation >>


Hotels Approach Pre-Pandemic Levels in March
Occupancy levels between hotels & short-term rentals continue to become more balanced

Hotel occupancy hit 70% in March, five points ahead of vacation rentals at 65%. In the benchmark year of 2019, hotel occupancy in March was 73% – just three points ahead of March 2022, but 15 points higher than vacation rentals were in 2019, at 58%. These numbers reflect more balance between hotels and short-term rentals, providing opportunities to win for both local residents that operate hotels as well as residents that own short-term rentals.

March 2022 Lodging Occupancy

DOWNLOAD: Destination Performance Metrics >>


Explore Asheville is partnering with UNC Asheville to support the creation of the Asheville Ideas Fest. The inaugural experience will take place June 14-18 on the campus of UNC Asheville and at key sites in the region, including Biltmore Estate, The Omni Grove Park Inn, and Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, convening global thought leaders to focus on the most consequential issues of our time.

DETAILS: Info & Tickets >>

Join Explore Asheville on May 18 at Omni Grove Park Inn
Event is free to community partners with advance registration

Explore Asheville's annual Tourism Summit returns on Wednesday, May 18 from 12–5 p.m. at The Omni Grove Park Inn – in person for the first time since 2019. Held in conjunction with the National Travel & Tourism commemoration that takes place each year in May, this year's event includes:

- Lunch & Keynote: 'Foundations of Storytelling'Stewart Colovin, EVP of MMGY Global Brand Strategy

- Diversity Training Workshop: Black Travelers Evita Robinson, Founder of NOMADNESS Travel Tribe + Researchers with Tourism RESET

- Networking Reception An opportunity to reconnect!

Tourism Summit 2022 is free to community partners with advance registration.

DETAILS & REGISTER: Tourism Summit 2022 >>


Find meeting documents &
a recording of the April 27 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, May 25 | 9 a.m.–11 a.m.
Explore Asheville | 27 College Place | Asheville
Details to be posted HERE >>

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

Follow Our Progress

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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