February 22, 2023

Greetings on Behalf of the Buncombe County TDA

Today the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) Board of Directors celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF), which included sharing the commemorative 20-year legacy video, a presentation on TPDF project usage, and the TPDF annual report, which provides an updated timeline for the remaining 23 community projects.

  • Since the TPDF’s inception, 46 community projects have benefited from nearly $60M in community investment by the BCTDA. Sixteen projects are in development, and seven are completed and in the reporting phase. Half the remaining projects are anticipated to reach completion this year, while three-quarters of all projects are anticipated to be completed before the end of 2024.
  • TPDF project use by residents and visitors has increased annually since 2019, with residents making up 35% of all visits. Data also shows that visitors who go to TPDF projects are more likely to stay overnight, visit other attractions across Buncombe County, and support local food, art, entertainment, and retail businesses.

After six months of tax collections, staff updated revenue and expense forecasts. Lodging tax revenues for FY23 are expected to be strong, but not as strong as the 12% growth forecast last year; therefore, staff reduced expenses by $2 million.

In addition to commemorating the TPDF's inception twenty years ago to this month, we are proud to amplify this week's announcement that Allegiant will start offering a non-stop route from Phoenix, Arizona this May.

Kathleen Mosher Chair


Revenue Forecast Rose and Expense Forecast Reduced
Expense Forecast Trimmed to Reflect Adjusted Revenue Forecast

Halfway through the fiscal year, lodging tax revenue collected totals $20.3 million. Staff revised the FY23 revenue forecast down from $40.8 million to $36.7 million.

Based on the reduced revenue forecast for FY23, staff has decreased operating expenses across departments for the year by $2.1 million. The updated expense forecast is now $27.1 million, down $2.1 million from the $29.2 million originally budgeted for FY23. To deliver the marketing and programming necessary to sustain local businesses, staff will utilize an additional $600 thousand, totaling $2.6 million from the operating fund balance.  


Hotels and Vacation Rentals Witness Inverted Occupancy Trends
Occupancy Rates Signal Settling Back to Pre-Pandemic Trends

Hotels witnessed a decline in January lodging occupancies since the start of the pandemic. However, occupancy has risen gradually, with last month’s rates trailing only one percentage point behind pre-pandemic levels.

Alternatively, vacation occupancy rates peaked in January 2021 when people were looking for respite and working remotely for extended periods of time during the pandemic. Occupancy of these units remains above pandemic levels but has declined, likely due to the growth of vacation rental inventory in the market.


BCTDA Celebrates TPDF 20th Anniversary with Legacy Video
Highlights TPDF Projects Impact on Buncombe County Residents

To commemorate the 20-year impact of the TPDF, staff shared a new video that celebrates TPDF investments and their impact on Buncombe County. View the video to explore the diverse portfolio of community investments – like greenways and trails, sports and recreation facilities, performing arts and entertainment venues, and cultural spaces – all powered by visitors.

Watch the TPDF Legacy Video


Zartico Data Verifies TPDF Investment Impact
Projects Attract Residents, Visitors, and High-Quality Trips

The BCTDA board received a presentation from Zartico, a visitor economy data consultancy, demonstrating the value of TPDF investments and the impact projects have on visitors and residents. The anonymized geolocation data collected from cell phones detect visitors and residents at TPDF locations, with visits by both groups increasing year over year. Additionally, the data demonstrates that TPDF projects attract high-quality visits more likely to encourage overnight stays, increase visitor dispersal across Buncombe County, and support local businesses. Other key findings include the following:

  • 35% of overall TPDF project visits are from residents, three-quarters of whom live in Buncombe County
  • 50% of TPDF patrons also visit Downtown and Biltmore Village, while other parts of the county were visited by up to 28%
  • 70% of visitors who go to a TPDF project come from out of state
  • 75% of visitors to TPDF projects stay the night, thus generating more TPDF revenue to be reinvested in our community


Half of Remaining Projects Reach Completion This Year
Three-Quarters of Remaining Projects to be Completed in 2024

The board also received an annual report from staff on the progress of remaining TPDF projects, which included the remaining scope, construction timeline, and any challenges or additional needs for support.

Four of the 10 projects that received investment in the last funding cycle have already broken ground or are currently under construction. This includes the North Carolina Glass Center’s new Black Mountain facility, UNC Asheville’s Karl Straus Track renovation, Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS)’s museum beautification project, and the second phase of The Wortham Center.

Several projects approved for investment in earlier funding cycles struggled with construction delays due to various reasons such as ongoing supply chain issues, rising project costs, conflicting construction vendor schedules, or navigating government processes. Two long-stalled projects, the YMI Cultural Center and the Asheville Community Theatre, are moving forward and progressing to be completed this year.

Most projects reported increased room nights, yet indoor arts and cultural spaces were challenged to generate room night minimums due to the practices and precautions established during the pandemic. Recognizing some businesses are still in the recovery phase, Explore Asheville is now conducting an arts & culture survey to identify problem areas and future solutions with the community.

TPDF Project Timeline and Financial Summary

50% of existing projects are expected to be completed before the end of this year, while 75% of all projects should reach completion prior to the end of 2024. 

$26.4 million has been budgeted for active TPDF projects, with $636,000 disbursed to date. This leaves $25.4 million remaining, with 34% expected to be distributed by the end of this calendar year.  

Projects Managed by Explore Asheville
Black Cultural Heritage Trail

Funded in the 2018 grant cycle and previously known as the African American Heritage Trail, the Black Cultural Heritage Trail is anticipated to be completed late this summer. Explore Asheville staff are a steward of this important community project in partnership with project management partner River Front Development Group and an 18-person community advisory committee.

Wayfinding Updates

Since 2010, Explore Asheville has managed and maintained more than 300 wayfinding signs — pedestrian, vehicular, and parking — and information kiosks that compose its wayfinding program. The 2023 spring maintenance audit will take place in mid-March. Additionally, Explore Asheville is working with a contractor to identify new system and signage needs, and other areas for improvement.

Find documents from the February 22 board meeting HERE >>

Thursday, March 23 | 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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