Sept. 27, 2023

Today at the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) meeting, board members received a presentation highlighting expansive media partnerships slated for this fiscal year, including our acclaimed fall foliage campaign.

The fall and holiday seasons are a crucial time of the year for our partners. Since 1983, Explore Asheville and the BCTDA have taken great pride in stewarding investments which inspire visits to our destination, thereby igniting demand for the vibrant array of local businesses.

Visitor spending is our strongest export. Visitors bring net new dollars into our community to sustain the wide and varied, small and independent businesses throughout the area. This spending supports livelihoods for area residents, businesses pay property and sales tax that fuel City and County budgets, and residents pay income and property taxes with paychecks made possible by visitors.  

Main takeaways from the September board meeting include the following:

We would like to extend our gratitude to the 250 partners who celebrated four decades of building and investing in community during our Annual Meeting last week at the Wortham Center for Performing Arts. Partners can still reflect on our industry's accomplishments by reading the FY23 Annual Report, which captures our destination and organizational achievements as well as momentous milestones from the last forty years.

Brenda Durden Chair
Vic Isley signature
August Occupancy Slightly Softens From Previous Year
Plus an Updated Dashboard that Focuses on Lodging Performance

August 2023 hotel occupancy was down nine points from 2019, three points from 2021, and one point from 2022. Vacation rental occupancy was down one point from 2019, 11 points from 2021, and two points from 2022.

Explore Asheville has updated its monthly Destination Performance Dashboard to include a year-over-year comparison of occupancy, demand, average daily rate (ADR), revenue per available room (RevPar), airport passenger counts, and lodging sales. Each report will feature data from two months prior due to timing of reporting from the Asheville Regional Airport and Buncombe County Finance.

July Destination Performance Dashboard
BCTDA Approves LIFT Fund Committee Members
Members Will Evaluate and Make Recommendations for LIFT Fund

Today the board voted to approve the following individuals for the inaugural Legacy Investment From Tourism (LIFT) Fund Committee as recommended by the nominating committee:

  • Laura Webb – Founder & President of Webb Investment Services
  • Dr. Joseph Fox – Founder & Owner of Fox Management Consulting Enterprises
  • Barbara Benisch – Non-profit management & Community Development Consultant
  • Mike McCarty – Owner of The Lobster Trap restaurant
  • HP Patel – President & CEO of BCA Hotels (TDA Ex-Officio Liaison)
  • Himanshu Karvir – President & CEO of Virtelle Hospitality
  • Kyle Highberg – Sr. Director of Operations at Biltmore Farms
  • Amy Kelly – Managing Principal at Hatteras Sky
  • Kathleen Mosher – VP of Communications at Biltmore
  • Shelton Steele – Co-Owner of Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabins

The nominating committee reviewed the pool of 24 applicants and considered their professional and personal life experiences, as well as their depth of knowledge in their fields.The inaugural LIFT Fund Committee represents a diversity of age, expertise, and perspectives that will allow them to evaluate applications in an informed and objective manner. 

Per state legislation, five of the nine voting members of the LIFT Committee must be owners or operators of hotels, motels, or bed and breakfasts. All members will serve three terms with not more than two consecutive terms.

Celebrating 40 Years of Economic Growth
Thank You For Joining Us at The 2023 Annual Meeting

The 2023 BCTDA Annual Meeting emphasized the economic growth across the region, stressing the importance of travel and hospitality’s role in the past and future. Highlights from the event include:

  • Richard Florida gave a thought-provoking presentation about the future of city centers;
  • Mayor Manheimer received a check memorializing the significant McCormick Field TPDF investment;
  • Matthew Bacoate Jr. was recognized as the 2023 William A.V. Cecil Tourism Leadership Award recipient and we debuted a commemorative video on Bacoate’s long legacy of building community in Asheville;
  • Stewart/Owen Dance opened the event with a moving performance of Memory Affair;
  • F&B partners provided tasty bites and beverages during the reception;
  • Attendees were sent home with a copy of the FY23 Annual Report and a silver dollar in Matthew’s honor.
Full Recap of the 2023 BCTDA Annual Meeting
Explore Asheville's Impact on Sports Tourism
An Update on the Sports Commission's Organizational Assessment

Prior to the Sports Commission's formation, Explore Asheville had its own sports committee. Explore Asheville has maintained its own sports initiatives as well as being a funding partner of the commission for 13 years. In addition to increasing investment levels and becoming the primary investor in the Sports Commission, Explore Asheville and the BCTDA have fostered sports tourism in the following ways:

  • The BCTDA has invested nearly $52 million in sports facilities for visitors and residents through the Tourism Product Development Fund. These investments enhance our potential to attract more sporting events in the future, such as the $2 million invested in Harrah's Cherokee Center facility upgrades crucial to securing the return of SoCon to Asheville.
  • The Explore Asheville team independently books more than half of the sports groups in our community. Securing events like the Asheville Championship through a $105,000 marketing title sponsorship commitment and hotel agreements, the BCTDA also provides sponsor dollars and service support for SoCon, Skyview Golf Tournament, and the Asheville Open Tennis Championships.

Next week founding members will meet and discuss future bylaws and funding structures of the Sports Commission. Explore Asheville and the BCTDA will continue investing in sports tourism and the area’s facilities alongside partners regardless.

Planting the Idea for Fall Travel
Inspiring Visitation to Asheville for the Betterment of Our Economy

Asheville and Buncombe County have one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the country due to elevation and the diversity of tree species. Explore Asheville is kicking off one of its most expansive seasonal campaigns of the year by producing weekly fall color reports, extending television reach with weather sponsorships, and sharing photos from this year’s local Fall Color Hunters. To create a sense of urgency and drive additional business this fall and holiday season, we’re highlighting lodging partners who are offering limited-time packages and deals.

Storytelling Partnerships

This month, Explore Asheville is partnering with AFAR to help local lodging, tourism, attraction, and hospitality partners find their stories during a half-day workshop on Monday, October 2.

The Champions of Conservation sponsorship with Garden and Gun aligns with our strategic imperative to Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel. Stories of these advocates and innovators within our community will also be shared in the PBS docuseries The Good Road. 

Significant FY24 Initiatives

Other key initiatives this fiscal year include a website redesign for and merger of, digital storytelling content for the Black Cultural Heritage Trail, a BIPOC in the outdoors initiative, continued LGBTQIA+ marketing, and an extension of our initiative to increase performing arts attendance.

Find documents from the September 27 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, October 25 | 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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