Nov. 28, 2023

During the last BCTDA meeting of the year, the board approved $100,000 of investment for 25 local festivals and cultural events in 2024. The Festivals and Cultural Events Support Fund was established to stimulate new events and expand on existing ones that are enjoyed by residents and visitors. We are pleased to support these local events occurring throughout the year and throughout the county. The recent legislative changes now allow this fund to come from the destination promotion budget, freeing up earned revenue from the Explore Asheville website for investment in a new workforce development program for our community.

Other takeaways from the November board meeting include:

Upon approval from the board, Explore Asheville is shoring up the media investments to maintain the impact of our promotional advertising coverage during an election year when ad costs spike due to increased competition. Maintaining promotional reach provides the best opportunity to inspire and support net new visitor spending in local businesses throughout our community. This in turn will generate visitor-supported sales tax needed to fuel local government budgets for resident services.

We are encouraging community members to join us for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the highly anticipated Asheville Black Cultural Heritage TrailWe hope you can attend one of the final events of 2023!  

Brenda Durden Chair
Vic Isley signature
October Lodging Occupancy Healthy Just Below 2019 Rates
Lodging Demand Outpaces Pre-Pandemic Growth

Our destination reaches its peak annual performance each October. This year, hotel occupancy was down two points from 2019 and down 6 points from its high in 2021. Vacation rental occupancy was up eight points from 2019 but down nine points from its high in 2020.

Demand for hotels and vacation rentals has grown since 2019, with vacation rentals outpacing hotel demand growth significantly, distributing overnight guests differently throughout our community.

View the Latest Destination Dashboard
BCTDA Approves $100,000 in Investment for
25 Local Festivals & Cultural Events 

Lodging Tax Paid by Visitors Support Engaging Community Festivals and Events

Today, the BCTDA approved a total of $100,000 of investment for local cultural events and festivals celebrating Asheville and Buncombe County communities. Twenty-five community festivals and cultural events received investment through this year’s Festivals & Cultural Events Support Fund, which aims to foster community connections and enhance local experiences for both residents and visitors in 2024.

Launched in 2016, the support fund contributes to the financial viability and long-term sustainability of festivals and cultural events. This is the first year the lodging tax paid by visitors will support local festivals and events, enabled by a change in state legislation, shifting how these funds can be spent. Prior to FY24, the budget for this program was earned through advertising sales and reservations booked on

2024 Festivals & Cultural Events Support Fund Recipients
Partnerships Showcase Asheville on Highly Viewed National Networks
Asheville Garners Coverage on PBS and Hallmark Channel this Fall

As part of an integrated promotional partnership centered on Champions of Conservation and Responsible Travel, Garden & Gun (G&G) and Explore Asheville partnered with PBS’s docuseries The Good Road to produce one full-length episode filmed in Asheville. Premiering nationally on Nov. 7, the episode will be in rotation through 2024. G&G also crafted three mini-episodes showcasing Asheville, broadcast on G&G and Explore Asheville’s digital and social media channels. These episodes spotlight the stories of Gaining Ground Farm, The Utopian Seed Project, and Southside Community Farm.

Another way our destination has reached the small screen was through Hallmark Channel’s A Biltmore Christmas. The last quarter of each year, Hallmark Channel becomes the most watched entertainment cable network among households, total viewers, and women and persons 18+, women 25–54 (with no qualifiers), and women 18–9. The made for TV movie premiered Nov. 26 and is currently in rotation. The $500,000 destination promotion package which includes national tv spots, embedded brand videos, and a custom website content runs for six months (July – Dec.), delivering 36.4 million national TV and digital impressions.

Submit Your LIFT Fund Applications By This Friday, Dec. 1
Nonprofit and Government Partners are Encouraged to Apply

The Legacy Investment From Tourism (LIFT) Fund was created to provide financial investment for tourism-related capital projects that increase patronage of lodging facilities, meeting facilities, or convention facilities in Buncombe County, and benefit the community at large in Buncombe County. The BCTDA estimates that $10 million will be available for LIFT Fund investments this year. Applications must be submitted by 5 pm this Friday, Dec. 1.

More information on the LIFT Fund grant process and evaluation criteria can be found in the LIFT Fund Guidelines here.

Apply for the Inaugural LIFT Fund
Long-awaited Black Cultural Heritage Trail Debuts in December
Save the Date for the Ribbon Cutting Friday, Dec. 15

Stewarded by the River Front Development Group, an engaged advisory group of area residents, and dedicated Explore Asheville staff the Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail has been many years in the making. Next month residents and visitors can explore the rich Black cultural heritage of Asheville throughout three sections of the trail located Downtown, Southside, and River Arts District. The 14 stops and 20 panels celebrate the dignity, humanity, and agency of Black people from all backgrounds who built resilient communities and fostered social change. The Black Cultural Heritage Trail was made possible through a $500,000 Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) investment in 2018.

We hope you’ll join us for the ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 15, 10 am–12 pm at 8 River Arts Place. Explore Asheville Partners will receive an invite to RSVP next week!


Find documents from the Nov. 29, 2023 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, January 24, 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.

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