March 23, 2023

Greetings on Behalf of the Buncombe County TDA

Today the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) Board of Directors initiated the FY24 budget planning process by reviewing economic travel trends, forecast scenarios, performance indicators, and industry research provided by Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company. Buncombe County continues to be in a comparatively strong position following the pandemic as a destination that is dominated by mostly leisure visitors, a small international segment, sizeable vacation rental market, and strong current performance. The main takeaways from the March board meeting include the following:

Despite concerns over the economy, a record 93% of Americans have plans to travel in the next six months. Recently, our community made the shortlist for USA Today’s Best Summer Travel Destinations and is currently ranked at no. 2 in an open readers’ choice poll. The poll is open until Monday, April 17, at noon, and we hope you will show your community pride by voting for Asheville!

Kathleen Mosher Chair


Lodging Demand Continues to Rise Steadily
Vacation Rental Demand Growth Outpaces Demand Growth for Hotels

February hotel demand grew 7.5% from 128,000 rooms in 2019 to nearly 138,000 rooms in 2023. February vacation rental demand more than doubled during the same time period, growing from 44,000 rooms in 2019 to 97,000 rooms in 2023, totaling an increase of 119% in demand.

View the February Destination Dashboard


BCTDA and Finance Committee Determine Revenue Forecast
FY24 Forecast Informed by Tourism Economic Data

The BCTDA approved the Finance Committee's recommendation of a $39.6 million lodging tax revenue forecast for FY24, which will result in a BCTDA revenue forecast of $37.6 million. The committee derived this number after thoroughly reviewing trends, projections, key economic indicators, industry research, and various scenarios produced by research analysts and forecasters at Tourism Economics. This organization has worked with Explore Asheville and the BCTDA for more than a decade to measure the value of visitors to Buncombe County.

The Finance Committee will also advise Explore Asheville staff in developing the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Its members include:

  • Matthew Lehman | Grand Bohemian Hotel General Manager | Finance Committee Chair & BCTDA Treasurer;
  • HP Patel | BCA Hotels President & CEO | BCTDA member;
  • Chip Craig | GreyBeard Realty Owner & Founder | past BCTDA member;
  • Kathleen Mosher | The Biltmore Company Vice President of Communications | BCTDA Board Chair.
Scenario Forecasts Follow Three Economic Outlooks
Upside, Baseline, and Downside Scenarios Considered for FY24

Tourism Economics developed three Buncombe County economic forecast scenarios for the Finance Committee’s consideration.

  • The upside scenario projects lodging tax revenues to reach $40 million, operating under the assumption that inflation pressures ease, and business and customer confidence improves, further aiding recovery.
  • The baseline scenario projects lodging tax revenues to reach $39 million, assuming a mild recession begins in Q2 as consumers limit spending and businesses cut back on hiring and investment.
  • The downside scenario projects lodging tax revenues to reach $37 million and assumes that interest rates will rise aggressively over the next several months.

These three forecasted scenarios and the trends below informed the Finance Committee’s lodging tax revenue forecast of $39.6 million, which will result in $37.6 million with the 5% County administrative fee, which is the midpoint between the upside and baseline scenarios.

Visitor Spending and the Virtuous Cycle
Direct Spending by Visitors Predicted to Gradually Rise, Supporting Our Local Businesses

This year, visitors are forecasted to spend $2.9 billion in Buncombe County, up from the estimated $2.76 billion spent in 2022 and the $2.64 billion spent in 2021.

While lodging shoulders 100% of community marketing and capital project investment, other business sectors reap the lion’s share of financial rewards. Visitor-supported businesses contribute significant property taxes to the county and city towards their annual budgets and sales tax paid by visitors that funnels to state, county, and city coffers.

Revenue Growth by Accommodation Type
Hotels Continue to be Foundational in Generating Lodging Revenue

Hotel revenue continues to be the largest revenue stream in Asheville, accounting for 62% of total lodging revenue in FY22. Vacation Rental revenue growth exceeded 30% annually between FY2019-2022, accounting for 36% of total lodging revenue in FY22 compared to 18% in FY19.

Asheville MSA Workforce
Leisure and Hospitality Industry Lead Job Growth in 2022

Compared to 2021, the five-county region of the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area created 1,200 additional leisure and hospitality jobs, which was the highest growth by industry.


Buncombe County Administrative Fee Increase
A 5% Fee will be Charged on Lodging Tax Collections in FY24

Lodging taxes, also known as occupancy taxes, are remitted by Buncombe County to the BTCDA. Since 2017, the county has charged a 1.5% administrative fee on total annual lodging tax collections. At the March 14 Buncombe County Budget Work Session, staff and commissioners discussed a fee increase and plan to charge the full five percent allowed by the new legislation.

In anticipation of this fee increase, the BCTDA projects a $2 million fee at 5% of the $39.6 million FY24 total lodging tax revenue, leaving $37.6 million in expected BCTDA revenue for the next fiscal year.

City-Appointed BCTDA Board Seat Opening Next Fiscal Year
Now Accepting Applications Until April 30

Also per the new legislation, the City-appointed vacant seat must be filled by an owner of a restaurant, brewery, distillery, or winery open for tours/tasting, or an executive director of a ticketed arts organization. Interested applicants that meet these guidelines can apply now until April 30 on the City’s website.

The Boards and Commissions Council Committee will determine if they are ready to make appointments OR conduct essays/interviews on June 13. A board appointment is expected to take place at the August 28 City Council meeting.

City of Asheville Boards & Commissions Application


Destination Marketing Reaccreditation
Explore Asheville Recognized with Distinction

Explore Asheville earned its reaccreditation eight years after first receiving the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP) seal from Destinations International.

The DMAP seal is awarded to recognize the organization's commitment to industry excellence and meeting the industry standard for performance and accountability of destination organizations worldwide. The review board noted that Asheville’s application was among the strongest received and sets the standard for accreditation applications.

Explore Asheville is among over 200 destination organizations that have obtained DMAP recognition, fewer than 10% of which earned “Accreditation with Distinction.”

Find documents from the March 23 board meeting HERE >>

Friday, March 24 | 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
Grand Bohemian Hotel | 11 Boston Way | Asheville
Details to be posted HERE >>

Wednesday, April 26 | 9–11 a.m.
Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau | 27 College Place | Asheville
Details to be posted HERE >>

Delivering Balanced Recovery & Sustainable Growth | Encouraging Safe & Responsible Travel |
Engaging & Inviting More Diverse Audiences | Promoting & Supporting 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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