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.