Oct. 26, 2023

Yesterday, the BCTDA approved more than $6 million of new investment in three major tourism capital projects to benefit residents and visitors. Including the nearly $23 million committed to McCormick Field during the BCTDA’s July meeting, Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) investments total more than $29 million in awards this year, marking the largest annual investment in the 20-year history of the fund.

With yesterday’s decision, the authority has provided more than $80 million through 61 investments in 40 community projects across Buncombe County.

Other takeaways from the October board meeting include:

Yesterday's investment decisions are the first of many that will benefit the community over the next several months. Applications for the 2024 Festival and Cultural Event Support Fund are due this Friday and grant recipients will be determined at the November board meeting. Next week the inaugual Legacy Investment From Tourism Fund (LIFT) grant cycle launches. Mark your calendar for Tuesday, November 7 for an information session on the LIFT project guidelines and process.   

Brenda Durden Chair
Vic Isley signature
September Lodging Occupancy Healthy Yet Not Back to 2019
Hotel Occupancy Relatively Flat While Vacation Rentals Settle Back to Pre-Pandemic Levels

Smith Travel Research revealed September 2023 hotel occupancy was up one point from the past two years, and 15 points from the pandemic, yet down four points from the pre-pandemic peak. AirDNA data shows that vacation rental occupancy was even with 2019 rates, leveling off from it's 71% peak in 2020.

View the Latest Destination Dashboard
BCTDA Approved Historic $29 Million for 2023 TPDF Projects 
County, City, and State Projects to Enhance Buncombe County and Asheville's Competitiveness for Sporting Events

Following a robust discussion on the TPDF Committee's recommendation, the BCTDA board approved more than $6 million of investment in three major tourism capital projects. These community investments align closely with TPDF goals and Explore Asheville’s strategic imperatives by enhancing Buncombe County’s competitiveness for multi-day sporting events, dispersing visitors countywide, encouraging off-peak travel, and expanding family-friendly activities for visitors and residents.

In addition to the $22.95 million McCormick Field investment decision made this summer, the following projects were aproved for grant funding: 

  Applicant   Project   Investment
  Buncombe County Parks & Rec Enka Recreation Destination - Phase II


  City of Asheville Harrah's Cherokee Center - Asheville Upgrades


  Western NC Agricultural Center Equine Facility Modernization




  City of Asheville McCormick Field Centennial Restoration & Capital Improvements Project




Funding for the 2023 TPDF Cycle was collected under the 2022 legislation, HB1057, which stipulates that one third of the occupancy tax collected is to be split evenly between TPDF and the Legacy Investment from Tourism (LIFT) Fund.

With yesterday’s decision, the authority has committed more than $80 million through 61 investments in 40 community projects across Buncombe County.

Read the 2023 TPDF Cycle Press Release
Creating Return On Investment This Quarter
July to September Packed with Targeted and Integrated Efforts

Explore Asheville department heads provided updates on progress towards four strategic imperatives that were adopted two years ago. These strategic imperatives ladder up to broader community goals and guide the direction of our initiatives and community investments.

Highlights of the first quarter’s progress report include:

  • Our business development team welcomed 116 groups, spending $13.4M in our community so far this fiscal year. The team converted more than 100 other groups to meet here in the future, generating an additional $11.5M in direct spending throughout the county.
  • Our sales team represented Asheville and Buncombe County at 11 trade shows and conferences, accelerating proactive sales efforts to increase net new business to the destination. 
  • Convening the Asheville Business Events Council (ABEC) encourages collaboration with broader community leaders to ensure sustainable growth and recruit events that diversify our economy. Co-hosting Expedition Asheville with the airport provided the opportunity to engage airline executives and encourage new direct service opportunities from Southwest, Breeze, American and Allegiant airlines.
  • Partnering with Garden & Gun for the Champions of Conservation honored local leaders in sustainability such as JJ Apodaca of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy and Chris Smith of the Utopian Seed Project, while positioning Asheville as a destination that values conservation.
  • Updating our the Black Mountain landing page to become more immersive and cohesive improves the quality of each visit by inspiring increased length of stay and dispersal.
  • The third year of sponsoring Skyview Golf Tournament honored the legacy of the nation's oldest Black golf tournament and garnered engagement from a new generation of Black locals and visitors for a collective reach of 73 million.
  • A 48-Hour “Fam Tour” introduced 20 qualified meeting planners to Asheville. These types of “test drive” events typically result in a 75% ROI with planners booking one or multiple events here in the future.
  • Explore Asheville  launched a pilot marketing program to aid the continued recovery efforts of our performing arts groups, venues, and organizations.
  • Staff uniforms worn at local events and national conferences included purchases from local brands such as Twin Denim, Lightning Bolt Ink, Button Pin Fun, and Astral shoes to demonstrate our commitment to the creative economy.
  • Industry and stakeholder events intentionally shine a spotlight on the diversity and breadth of Asheville and Buncombe County's creative community by contracting with different caterers, photographers, product activations, musicians, etc. and connect them with new business opportunities.
  • Explore Asheville has expanded our partnership base with 27 new businesses, demonstrating our commitment to local, diverse creators, makers, and vendors.


Find documents from the October 25 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, November 29 | 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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