September 28, 2022

Greetings on behalf of the Buncombe County TDA

Today’s Tourism Development Authority board meeting included details about visitor contributions to Asheville in Buncombe County in 2021, an economic outlook into the future, and budget impacts from the change in occupancy tax allocations based on new legislation passed earlier this summer.

After some of the most trying years on record – for so many reasons -- visitor spending rebounded dramatically and pumped $2.6 billion into local businesses in 2021. With the popularity of and comfort levels with outdoor and domestic destinations, Buncombe County surpassed Wake County in visitor spending, ranking only second in the state behind Mecklenburg County where visitors spent $4.1 billion.

Visitor spending benefited a wide variety of local, independent businesses that support jobs and careers for area residents. The lion’s share (69 percent) of visitor spending was in local shops, restaurants and breweries, recreation, entertainment and tour providers and transportation companies. Thirty-one percent (31 percent) was spent inside lodging facilities, while occupancy tax paid by visitors who stay in hotels, vacation rentals and bed & breakfasts shoulders 100 percent of the destination marketing investment for our entire community.

This was the first financial report reflecting revenues based on the new legislation mandating a two-thirds split be reinvested in marketing and one-third split dedicated to the Tourism Product Development Fund and the new Legacy Investment from Tourism (LIFT) Fund, established to support more community-based projects. With July collections, each Fund saw $609,000 in revenue for the first month of collections. More than $9 million is available for investment through the Tourism Product Development Fund this grant cycle, which will be determined in the October board meeting.

As a result of the new allocations, as well as a slowing of the lodging market (total lodging sales down 3 percent) – the marketing fund was down a total of 13 percent in revenue year-to-date compared with 2021.

Kathleen Mosher Chair

William A.V. Cecil Leadership Award

Explore Asheville Annual Meeting and the William A.V. Cecil Leadership Award

More than 200 guests gathered at our recent Explore Asheville Annual Meeting held September 22 at the DoubleTree Biltmore. Keynote speaker, Wendy K. Smith, inspired us with an engaging presentation on the value of “both/and” thinking. Wendy’s book, Both/And Thinking: Embracing Creative Tensions to Solve Your Toughest Problems, is available for purchase at Malaprops

At the annual meeting, the William A.V. Cecil Leadership Award was presented posthumously to Asheville writer, environmentalist, human rights advocate and journalist Wilma Dykeman, whose son Jim Stokely accepted the award on her behalf. The popular River Arts District’s Wilma Dykeman Greenway, named in her honor for her visionary work about the French Broad River, was established in part through $7.1 million in BCTDA Tourism Product Development Funds.

Click image above for tribute video.

Wilma Dykeman Greenway.


August Lodging Performance

August 2022 hotel occupancy came in at 71 percent, down seven points from 2019 levels and down two points from 2021; while vacation rental occupancy was up two points from 2019 levels, yet down ten points from 2021.


Tourism Economics Presentation

Tourism Economics Presentation on Outlook for Economy and Travel

Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics presented research on the Outlook for the US Economy and Travel, including a focused look at Asheville’s performance as a travel and hospitality destination.

The first part of the presentation was a 2021 analysis of Visitor Contribution to the Asheville and Buncombe County Economy, highlighting the following findings:

  • Asheville visitor volume was up 37.7 percent in millions spent over 2020, representing a full recovery.
  • Total visitor spending in 2021 was $2.6 billion with 31 percent being lodging and the remaining 69 percent spent across industries including food and beverage, retail, recreation, entertainment, and transportation. Some 73 percent (of the total $2.6 billion) or $1.9 billion was spent by overnight visitors, representing 36.7 percent of total visitors to the area


  • Visitor spending in 2021 exceeded 2019 levels in every category, including an $88 million increase in spending in the food and beverage sector. Nearly $7.2 million was spent in local businesses EVERY DAY by visitors in Asheville and Buncombe County.
  • With 27,000 jobs in the travel and hospitality industry in Asheville, this represents 14.4 percent of all jobs in Buncombe County.
  • The $915 million in total workforce income generated by travel and hospitality is the equivalent of $8,700 for every household in Buncombe County.
  • The local travel and hospitality industry generated $238 million in state and local taxes. Each household in the county would need to pay an additional $2,262 in taxes to replace the visitor taxes received in 2021.

The second half of Sacks’ presentation focused on looking ahead. Despite the economy being tenuous and obstacles still existing to the success of the travel and hospitality industry nationally, research indicates the sector will prevail with continuation of strong demand and job growth continuing to climb.



The US Economy is expected to resume in the second half of 2022 but it is likely we will see – by historical standards -- a relatively mild recession in early 2023. Asheville leisure and hospitality jobs are still 11 percent lower than in 2019 but employment is trending upward.

Research also indicates US households remain in a place of financial strength and the pent-up demand for travel is real. Total Asheville air travel passengers is on pace to eclipse 2019 numbers with a 36 percent increase YTD through July.


Find documents from the September 28 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, October 26 | 9:00 a.m.–11:00 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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