Feb. 28, 2024

Today at the BCTDA Board of Directors meeting, Explore Asheville staff provided an annual update on recently completed and forthcoming projects that received investment through the Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF). Since the TPDF’s inception, the authority has committed $86 million through 64 investments in 41 community projects across Buncombe County. These projects have a compounding impact on our community, driving additional investment and increasing spending and visitation throughout the county. Eight projects are pre-construction, seven are under construction, and six are completed and in the reporting phase. Forty percent of projects in development are anticipated to reach completion this year, with eighty percent of projects anticipated to be completed before the end of 2025.

Takeaways from the February board meeting include:

As a reminder, the authority is seeking candidates to fill two TPDF Committee seats. One candidate must own or operate hotels, motels, or other taxable lodging accommodations, and the other must have financial expertise. If you meet these qualifications and are interested in making investment recommendations for major tourism capital projects, apply by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 1.

Brenda Durden Chair
Vic Isley signature
January Occupancy Reflective of a Typical Slow Season
Following National Trends, Lodging Demand Stabilizes Toward Historical Norms

January is historically our slowest month of the year, and 2024 was no exception for hotels and vacation rentals. January 2024 hotel occupancy was 42%, down seven points from 2019 and 2023, and the lowest since the pandemic in 2021.

January 2024 vacation rental occupancy was 37%, down two points from 2019 and 2023 and down 13 points from the height of vacation rental occupancy during the pandemic.

View the Latest Destination Dashboards (Dec.)
2023 Annual Lodging Performance Report
Vacation Rental Growth Outpaces Hotel Growth

Board members received a report on 2023 lodging performance that utilized Smith Travel Research for hotel data and AirDNA for vacation rentals in Buncombe County. Significant takeaways from last year's annual lodging performance include:

In the Last Five Years, Average Lodging Supply Grew 16% and Demand Grew 15%

Vacation rental supply and demand grew faster than hotels through 2023, continuing the trend from Asheville City Council’s hotel moratorium and pandemic travel behaviors.

On average, hotel rooms grew a modest 6% while vacation rental rooms grew nearly five times the rate of hotels, up 28%. Average hotel room demand grew by 7%, with vacation rental room demand growing by 30%.

Buncombe County’s hotel supply trails comparative markets, ranking seventh out of nine, even with the 5% increase in hotel rooms planned to open in 2024.

Lodging Occupancy is a Leading Indicator of What Other Local Business Categories Will Experience 

Hotel occupancy has not returned to the pre-pandemic level of 73%, holding steady at 69% for the last two years. This occupancy rate keeps us on par with comparative communities like Savannah, G.A., Charleston, S.C., and Greenville, S.C.

Vacation rental occupancy returned to the pre-pandemic occupancy rate of 56%.

Hotel Average Daily Rates (ADR) Grew 13% and Vacation Rental ADR Grew 30% in the Last Five Years, While the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Grew 25% 

Asheville and Buncombe County hotels ended 2023 ahead of comparative communities in average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR). This is an indicator of price, not profit, as business costs have increased exponentially.  

County-wide vacation rentals ranked sixth of nine comparative markets in ADR and RevPAR, behind Savannah, S.C., Charleston, S.C., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Gatlinburg, T.N., and Wilmington, N.C.

Next month, Tourism Economics will deliver a destination-specific forecast to support budget planning for FY25.

View the Annual Lodging Performance Report (Slide 20)
Data Shows TPDF Investment Drives Quality Visits to Asheville
Projects Attract Residents, Visitors, and High-Spend Trips

Explore Asheville partnered with Zartico, a visitor economy data consultancy, to determine the value of TPDF investments and the projects’ impacts on visitors and residents. Anonymized geolocation cell phone data collected at TPDF locations reveal increased visitors, with 77% of out-of-market visitors coming from out of state. Nearly half of these visitors were also detected at local restaurants, attractions, and accommodations, demonstrating that TPDF investments strengthen the quality of the visit by encouraging increased stays and dispersal across the county. The following key themes arose from the data: 

Investment Begets Investment

Investment in the River Arts District has increased visitor and resident spending in local businesses. From 2022 to 2023, this district witnessed a 30% increase in spending compared to Buncombe County’s 5% increase. New openings and more offerings, increased visitation, and higher transaction values drove this boost. The Wilma Dykeman and French Broad River Greenways—both TPDF investments—serve as anchors, consistently attracting new and repeat locals and visitors to the RAD throughout the week.

Sports Facilities Benefit Our Regional Residents

North Carolinians make up nearly 90% of visits to TPDF sports facilities, with a majority coming from Buncombe County. These facilities, including the JBL Soccer Complex, Asheville Muni Golf Course, Buncombe County Sports Park, and Bob Lewis Ball Park, receive more frequent visits by residents and regional visitors than other TPDF-invested projects in Buncombe County.

Events Positively Impact the Local Economy

Events hosted at TPDF-invested Pack Square Park attracted additional visitors and residents downtown. On event days, spending downtown increased 2% by Buncombe County residents primarily at restaurants and nightlife businesses, 2% by regional visitors primarily at restaurants and retail businesses, and 1% by visitors primarily at hotels and retail businesses.

Six TPDF Projects Anticipated to Reach Completion This Year
80% of All Committed TPDF Projects to Open by 2025

Explore Asheville staff presented updates on 21 active TPDF projects, including milestone achievements, construction progress, and visitation reports. Of the active projects, eight are in the pre-construction phase, seven are under construction, and six are complete and open to the public.  

Last Year the Authority Invested More Than $29 Million in Four Projects

Four Projects Completed in the Past Year

Six Projects Expected to Reach Completion in 2024

  • YMI Cultural Center (June)
  • North Carolina Glass Center in Black Mountain (July)
  • Asheville Municipal Golf Course Revitalization – Phase I (July)
  • AMOS Museum Beautification Project (Aug.)
  • AVL UnPaved Phase I (Oct.)
  • Black Cultural Heritage Trail Public Art Phase (Dec.)

Recent Milestone Moments

  • The long-awaited Black Cultural Heritage Trail was unveiled in December, spotlighting local Black stories along 14 stops across three sections of Asheville.
  • Asheville Community Theatre’s dedicated education and rehearsal space opened this month.
  • The Karl Strauss Track at UNCA held a grand re-opening ceremony in September and has already hosted three large events with several hundred attendees.
  • Buncombe County invited the community to its grand opening ceremony in July for the newly lit and turfed fields in the first phase of their Enka Recreation Destination project.
Buncombe County Comprehensive Plan Update
Short Term Rental (STR) Ordinance Update Currently Underway

Nathan Pennington of the Buncombe County Planning and Development department shared a Comprehensive Plan 2043 update with the board. Adopted in 2023, the plan serves as a long-range tool to guide growth and address community needs for the next 20 years. Now in the implementation phase, the County is looking to modernize ordinances to increase housing inventory and expedite the development review process. An update of the STR ordinance is currently underway, with the next public listening session taking place March 18 at Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College (AB-Tech).

Learn More About Proposed STR Amendments


Find documents from the Feb. 28, 2024 board meeting HERE >>

Thursday, March 21, 2024 | 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.

Facebook    LinkedIn    Email    Website