April 24, 2024

Today, the BCTDA Board of Directors approved nearly $10 million of new investment in a dozen tourism-related capital projects to benefit residents and visitors. The Legacy Investment from Tourism (LIFT) Fund expands the Tourism Development Authority’s ability to invest in transformative community projects and allows for wider uses of the fund to collaborate with non-profit and municipal partners. The projects approved today reflect the diversity of our community and dispersal throughout Buncombe County.

Explore Asheville and the BCTDA are excited to partner with Buncombe County on the Ferry Road affordable housing project in this inaugural cycle. By investing $4 million directly into the recreational and conservational components, such as greenways and trails, the Authority can support this important project for our community through amenities that will be available by 2026. Seventy-seven percent of available funds were committed to city- or county-owned projects. 

With today’s decision, the Authority has provided nearly $96 million in 51 community projects across Buncombe County through the Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) and the LIFT Fund

Other takeaways from the April board meeting include:

Today's investment decisions are the first of many that will benefit the community this year. Applications for Phase I of the 2024 TPDF cycle are due May 15 and investment decisions will be made by the board this fall. 

Brenda Durden Chair
Vic Isley signature
March Lodging Occupancy Consistent with Settling Trends
Concurrent with Nationwide Trends and Economic Conditions

Smith Travel Research data showed March 2024 hotel occupancy was down nine points from 2019 and down five points from 2022. AirDNA data shows that vacation rental occupancy was up one point from 2019 and down three points from 2022. 

Total roomnight demand for this fiscal year through March is on par with FY23. 

View the Latest Destination Dashboard
BCTDA Approved Nearly $10 Million in Inaugural LIFT Cycle
Initial Investments Awarded to Municipal and Local Nonprofit Projects Across Buncombe County 

Following the LIFT Committee's recommendation, the BCTDA Board of Directos approved nearly $10 million of investment in 12 tourism-related capital projects to benefit residents and visitors. The Legacy Investment from Tourism (LIFT) Fund provides financial investment through grants, loan guarantees, or pledges of debt service to tourism-related capital projects that will increase patronage of lodging facilities and benefit the community at large in Buncombe County.

This fund enables the tourism development authority to invest in a wider range of uses than the TPDF, including design, project administration, restoration or rehabilitation, capital maintenance, expansion of necessary infrastructure, and enhancement of natural resources. Funding comes solely from the occupancy tax paid by visitors who stay overnight in commercial lodging facilities such as hotels, vacation rentals, or bed and breakfasts.

The following 12 projects were approved for grant funding this cycle: 

  Applicant   Project   Investment
Buncombe County Ferry Road Community: Affordable Housing, Conservation, and Public Recreation


City of Asheville Coxe Avenue Complete Street


City of Asheville

ExploreAsheville.com Arena Capital Maintenance


City of Asheville Aston Park Tennis Center Court Rebuild Design


Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation Blue Ridge Parkway: Improving Visitor Experiences at Craggy Gardens Year-Round


Hood Huggers Foundation Blue Note Junction - Phase 1 Construction


RiverLink Gateway Park: Resurrecting a public park on Riverside Drive


Asheville Museum of Science Growing Together - Museum Repair and Expansion Plan


Media Arts Project (MAP)

Supernova Immersive Experience Project Design


University Botanical Gardens at Asheville, Inc. Building on Our Legacy: Uplifting BGA Facilities to Better Serve Tourists and Residents


Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League (DBA Swannanoa Valley Gallery and Studios) Expanding Visitors and Artists Experiences in Downtown Black Mountain (Red House Gallery and Studios)


Black Wall Street AVL  Black Wall Street AVL Visitor Experience Upgrade




These community investments align closely with the LIFT Fund goals and Explore Asheville’s Strategic Imperatives. The projects build on earlier investments and aim to enhance Buncombe County’s competitiveness for sporting and entertainment events, disperse visitors countywide, encourage off-peak travel, welcome diverse audiences, conserve natural resources, spotlight our creative spirit, and expand family-friendly activities for residents.

The inaugural LIFT Fund cycle builds upon previous Tourism Product Development Fund investments, totaling nearly $96 million in 51 community projects across Buncombe County.

Read the Inaugural LIFT Cycle Press Release
Creating Return on Investment This Quarter
January through March Packed with Targeted and Integrated Efforts

Explore Asheville department heads provided updates on progress towards four strategic imperatives that were adopted three years ago. These imperatives ladder up to broader community goals and guide the direction of Explore Asheville's initiatives and community investments.

Highlights of the third quarter’s progress report include:

  • Explore Asheville earned a Bronze Adrian Award from the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association (HSMAI) for its Always, Asheville storytelling foundation.
  • The marketing team partnered with Northstar Meetings Group to position Asheville as a prime meeting destination for key business sectors by leveraging the intellectual capital and notable industry sectors such as climate science, outdoor gear manufacturing, and wellness.
  • Another partnership with AFAR magazine showcased 10 local creators and more than 350 authentic experiences and partners, making it the most recalled ad campaign according to their readers.
  • The content team launched a local social media content creator initiative that has outperformed Visit Asheville's top-eight static image feed posts in comments by 124%, shares by 206%, and saves by 490%.
  • The business development team welcomed 41 groups, spending $11M in our community last quarter. The team converted more than 138 other groups to meet here in the future, generating an additional $14M in direct spending throughout the county later this year.
  • The team also hosted three FAM tours, resulting in four leads that have produced 1,500 room nights. Additionally, staff invited 67 community vendors to a wedding industry mixer. Wedding groups are Buncombe County’s second largest source of business.
  • The SoCon basketball tournament generated more than $5 million in direct spending throughout the community March 6–11.Explore Asheville is a sponsor of the basketball tournament and partners with SoCon, the ABRSC and Harrah’s Cherokee Center–Asheville staff annually on this important event.
  • The annual resident sentiment on tourism survey conducted by MMGY provided key insights including that more residents (88%) believe tourism is beneficial to our community this year versus last year.
  • Explore Asheville's Festivals & Cultural Events Support Fund provided $38.9k in grants and sponsorships to eight local events.
  • Explore Asheville honored five industry leaders with the Annual Superstar Award at The Year Ahead event in January and hosted an economic forecast by Tourism Economics at the Hospitality Outlook event in late April.
  • Explore Asheville expanded our partnership base with 31 new businesses in Q3, demonstrating our commitment to diverse creators, makers, and vendors throughout Buncombe County.
  • Explore Asheville received the Fired Up! Culture Achievement Award for the second consecutive year. This award irecognizes organizations that demonstrate a strong commitment to building a positive workplace culture. 


Find documents from the April 24 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, May 29 | 9–11 a.m.
Explore Asheville | 27 College Place | Asheville
Details to be posted HERE >>

Delivering Balanced & 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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