August 30, 2023

Today’s board meeting was held at the North Carolina Arboretum, a regional attraction that has received $1.65 million in Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) investments and Festival & Cultural Events (F&CE) Support Fund grants from the authority over the years. TPDF projects are powered by visitors who stay overnight in hotels, bed & breakfasts, and vacation rentals throughout Buncombe County. We shared a recent Visit NC statewide report, stating visitors contributed a record-breaking $2.88 billion in direct spending in Buncombe County businesses in 2022, ranking Asheville third in visitor expenditures across the state for a second year in a row.

This demonstrates the value and quality of overnight visits to our community in several ways:

  • While overnight visitors make up just 37% of visitor volume, they contribute 73% of total visitor spending to support area businesses.
  • While the lodging tax paid by visitors staying in hotels, vacation rentals and B&Bs shoulders 100% of the destination marketing and tourism-related community capital project funds, the vast majority of visitor spending (69%) is spent outside of lodging businesses with retail, restaurants, tour providers, entertainment venues and transportation partners.

Last night, we hosted the first of two Travel & Hospitality Nights at McCormick Field dedicated to celebrating and honoring those who are the ambassadors of our community’s creative spirit. These industry appreciation nights are made possible through a $23 million partnership between the Tourists Baseball Club, the City of Asheville, and the BCTDA. Tonight's game and celebration has been postponed to tomorrow, August 31. We hope you'll join us as we cheer for the Tourists!

The board recognized Andrew Celwyn for his six years of active service. In September 2017, he was appointed by the City of Asheville to represent a tourism-related business as the owner of Herbiary in downtown Asheville. Thank you for your voice and service, Andrew!

We hope to see you all on Sept. 19 at the 2023 BCTDA Annual Meeting!

Brenda Durden Chair
Vic Isley signature
Visitors Spent Record $2.88 Billion in Buncombe County 2022
Buncombe Ranked 3rd in Visitor Contributions Statewide

In 2022, Buncombe County achieved another record-breaking year of $2.88 billion in direct spending within our community. The vast majority of visitor spending occurs outside of lodging, with food & beverage establishments receiving 26% of visitor contributions or nearly $750 million, retail businesses receiving 19% or $534 million, transportation services receiving 12% or $364, and recreation and entertainment providers receiving 12% or $335 million.

Visit NC 2022 Economic Impact Studies
July Occupancy Down One Point Across Lodging Types YOY, Down Six Points from Pre-Pandemic Year
July is One of Our Most Important Months for Revenue for Lodging Partners and Local Businesses

While we celebrate the success of the last calendar year, we’ve also been hearing from businesses that sales have been down during the first half of 2023. Many local businesses rely on strong visitor spending in July and October to power businesses through shoulder seasons, to keep their establishments open, and their staff employed. Monitoring lodging occupancy, we see visitation has slowed from last year’s peak.

When presented last month's destination performance, the board discussed national and local factors impacting visitation to our community. Building off of the economic concerns and luxury trends shared in June, geolocation data shows visitor leakage to neighboring counties as a result of real and perceived safety issues in our community. Explore Asheville's marketing team is adjusting our process and messaging to inspire domestic travel to Buncombe County this fall.

RSVP for the 2023 BCTDA Annual Meeting
Tuesday, Sept. 19, 3-6 pm, at the Wortham Center for Performing Arts

Explore Asheville cordially invites our travel and hospitality partners to celebrate 40 years of investing in and building Asheville's deeply rooted, ever-evolving history.

Keynote speaker Richard Florida will shed light on the future of city and town centers, we’ll present the winner of the 24th William A.V. Cecil Award, and together we’ll gain valuable insights and foster meaningful connections.

We encourage everyone to stick around for a networking reception that will immerse you in Asheville's creative and hospitable spirit with entertainment, local bites, craft beverages, and more!

RSVP for the 2023 BCTDA Annual Meeting
Leisure, Hospitality, and Tourism Workforce Development
Explore Asheville Presents Benchmark Data and Potential Framework

A thriving workforce is essential to our community’s livelihood and Buncombe County is faced with workforce development challenges. As a result of July 2022 legislative changes, Explore Asheville plans to stand up a new workforce development program utilizing earned revenue, that doesn’t have the same state-imposed investment restrictions as lodging tax dollars. We know that leisure, hospitality, and other tourism (LHT) jobs serve as foundational career paths for area residents, offering low barriers to entry, flexibility, adaptability, and trajectories for upward mobility.

To initiate this process, Tourism Economics provided additional LHT workforce data benchmarked for the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and Buncombe County.

Buncombe County's Percentage of Leisure & Hospitality (L&H) Jobs and Wages Exceed the State Average

Nearly 32,000 residents were employed in leisure, hospitality, and other tourism (LHT) in Buncombe County last year, making up 18% of all private nonfarm jobs in our community. Sixty-one percent of all LHT jobs are supported by visitors alone, compared to the 39% of jobs supported by both visitors and residents. Sixty-two percent of Buncombe County’s LHT workforce is employed in the accommodation and food service.

Proposed Programs and Pathways for Improvement

Tourism Economics identified opportunities to better attract, advance, and retain these workers. The takeaways presented to the board today were workshopped with a cross-section of industry partners. Their suggestions and the preliminary data will inform a framework that inspires, trains, and educates the future workforce through strategic partnerships with high schools, training organizations, and higher education institutions. 

Explore Asheville is committed to understanding our role in improving workforce opportunities for area residents. With the goal of adding to and not re-creating current programs, we'll take the next few months to explore existing community programs that offer education, awareness, and training. 

View Today's BCTDA Presentation

Find documents from the August 30 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, September 27 | 9–11 a.m.
Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau | 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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