April 26, 2023

Greetings on Behalf of the Buncombe County TDA

Today the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) Board of Directors received a report from the Asheville Regional Airport showing strong inbound leisure traffic has fueled a post-pandemic recovery and record air travel growth. Explore Asheville values our airport partners, the access they provide area residents and quality visits to our community. Air travelers spend more than the average visitor, and that spending is more widely distributed throughout the community. Explore Asheville and Fly AVL align marketing efforts to drive strategic decisions around destination promotion. Later this year, we will collaborate on hosting airline planning executives right here in Asheville to encourage new flights and destinations. Other main takeaways from the April board meeting include the following:

An important reminder: the BCTDA recently opened the Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) grant cycle for 2023. With $8.2 million expected to be available, nonprofit and government partners are invited to apply for investment in major tourism capital projects that enhance Buncombe County. More information on the TPDF grant process, evaluation criteria, and FAQs can be found in the Program Guidelines. We'll be accepting Phase I applications until May 17.

Kathleen Mosher Chair


March Hotel Lodging Occupancy Rates are Flat to 2022
Vacation Rental Occupancy Down from Benchmark Year

The 28-day running average of last month shows hotel lodging occupancy remaining flat from 2022 and down three points from the benchmark year of 2019. Similarly, March vacation rental occupancy was down seven points from last year and one point from 2019.

View the March Destination Dashboard


AVL Airport Breaking Records and Breaking Ground
Fly AVL Update on Air Service, Recovery, and Future Airport Expansion

In the last five years, the AVL Airport has significantly increased connectivity to other destinations through growth in 16 markets, 1,400 daily seats, and nine daily flights. Today, AVL is served by six airlines with 26 nonstop routes flying to 22 of the top 25 domestic airport markets for Buncombe County. Starting May 26, a new route will serve AVL with a nonstop flight to Phoenix on Allegiant.

Utilization and Seat Sales to Surpass 2022

AVL is on track to outpace last year’s record-breaking attendance at the airport. Utilization is currently ahead of the same period last year by 37 percent, beating the 2022 record monthly counts for January, February, and likely March. Larger planes, more frequencies, and new routes are driving a 27 percent increase in weekly seats for sale this summer, another indicator of year-over-year growth.

Leisure Travel Leading Post-Pandemic Recovery

Recognized as a strong leisure destination for many years now, Asheville and Buncombe County are witnessing a swifter return in air traffic than other destinations. Strong inbound leisure traffic fuels significant growth at the AVL airport, with 65 percent of passengers flying into AVL as visitors last year. Over the past several years, strong visitor traffic has enabled airlines to add service, providing additional flight options for our local community.

New Air Traffic Control Tower and Make-Ready Improvements Underway

Construction is underway to relocate and replace one of the oldest air traffic control towers in the country with an estimated completion by spring 2025. A new central energy plant, a new surface parking lot with 650 spaces, and temporary modular gates round out the make-ready improvements needed to break ground on the new airport terminal this August.

 New Terminal Breaks Ground in August

The new terminal will double the size of the current airport and expand the number of gates from seven to 12. The additional space will create more room for ticketing, baggage claim, concessions, and two to three times as many TSA lanes. Construction will begin this August and start at the north concourse of the terminal. The first phase of development is estimated to be completed in two years, while the entire project is targeted to reach completion by the end of 2026.


Recommendations Under Consideration to Build on Sports Tourism Success
Founding Members Consider Merging Sports Commission Team with Explore Asheville

The Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission (ABRSC) was created in 2010 with four founding members: the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, UNC Asheville, and Explore Asheville/the BCTDA. At that time the City, County, and TDA equally invested $45K each annually, with UNC Asheville providing in-kind facilities and expertise. Today, Explore Asheville funds a majority of the investment at $230K, while the City of Asheville and Buncombe County's contributions remain at $45K and UNC Asheville provides the same in-kind services.

Founding members collectively agreed on an independent review to determine a sustainable way forward to build on the success of sports tourism efforts. Huddle Up Group presented their recommendations at an in-person stakeholder meeting on April 17, and now founders are considering these recommendations to merge the Sports Commission with Explore Asheville. The next steps for this process include the following:

  • City Council to be briefed on recommendations by City staff on May 9
  • Additional listening sessions will be held with founding members and the ABRSC advisory board
  • Explore Asheville staff will work with Finance Committee on scenario planning as part of FY24 strategy and budget efforts that will be presented to the BCTDA in May
  • Any change will require a vote of the founding members and ample notice to the Sports Commission


Join Explore Asheville for an Open House on May 9 
Celebrate 40 Years of National Travel and Tourism Week With Us

May 7-13, 2023, marks the 40th anniversary of National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW). We're kicking the week off with an afternoon of social connection and celebration of travel and tourism’s role in stimulating economic growth, cultivating vibrant communities, creating quality job opportunities, and inspiring new businesses. We hope folks will drop in to meet the team, learn about the services we provide, and engage in activations provided by local vendors.

Established in 1983, National Travel and Tourism Week celebrates the national travel community and its critical role in powering economies, communities, and connections. By moving #TravelForward, we demonstrate our industry’s importance.

RSVP to the NTTW Open House


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

Per 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

Find documents from the April 26 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, May 31 | 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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