Ashley Greenstein
(828) 318-8960


Local Leaders and Hospitality Partners Gather for the First Annual Industry Preview at The Year Ahead Event 

State Representatives Receive Top Honors; Community Celebrates  
20th Anniversary of Tourism Product Development Fund;  
Industry Panelists Share Updates on New Happenings and Experiences;  
and Explore Asheville’s Storytelling Foundation Debuts at Inaugural Event 

(Asheville – Jan. 23, 2023). Nearly 300 community leaders and tourism industry partners gathered on the afternoon of Jan. 19 for The Year Ahead, Explore Asheville’s partner event at The Venue. Led by Explore Asheville’s President & CEO Vic Isley, the program included the Asheville Superstar Award ceremony, the debut of the Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) legacy video, three fast-paced industry panels, and a sneak peek at new aspects of Asheville’s storytelling foundation.  

Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority Board Chair Kathleen Mosher recognized state lawmakers Congressman Chuck Edwards, Senator Julie Mayfield, and Senator Warren Daniel with Asheville Superstar Awards for their outstanding contributions and support of the passage of House Bill 1057, which increased the allocation of lodging tax dollars in Buncombe County to community capital projects.  

In recognition of the product development fund 20th Anniversary, Explore Asheville screened a new video that explains how grant funds are generated and showcases examples of the 46 community projects into which it has invested nearly $60 million dollars to date. 

“These projects can be good for tourism, and importantly, they benefit and serve our local community,” noted Timothy Love, director of economic development and governmental relations for Buncombe County. Chris Corl, director of community & regional entertainment facilities for the City of Asheville, also expressed his thanks to the authority and the Fund Committee during a discussion about TPDF investment in the Asheville Municipal Golf Course. “This grant was the lynchpin that got the ball rolling.”  

Fast-paced panel discussions touched on festivals and cultural events coming throughout the spring and summer and the opening of four new boutique lodging properties in renovated historical buildings downtown and in the River Arts District. 

“We are excited to showcase the outstanding venues and what makes Asheville’s music scene so vibrant,” said Jeff Whitworth, co-owner and talent buyer for the inaugural AVL Fest, a new 5-day music festival scheduled Aug. 2–6. 

Explore Asheville Senior Vice President of Marketing Marla Tambellini revealed new aspects of Asheville’s storytelling foundation that has been crafted from many community conversations and personal interviews. Guests were briefed on Explore Asheville’s refreshed logo and color palette and enjoyed new creative, including storytelling videos featuring local talent including voice overlay by Asheville Artist Jenny Pickens and cinematography by Erin Derham of History Boutique Films. 

The event concluded with a lively social mixer to the tunes of DJ Molly Parti.  

Panel Discussions 

Tourism Product Development Fund Panelists 

  • Timothy Love, director of economic development and governmental relations for Buncombe County 
  • Janet Cone, athletic director of UNCA Asheville 
  • Chris Corl, director of community & regional entertainment facilities for the City of Asheville 

The Biltmore Estate Update 

  • Melody Rigdon – vice president of marketing 

Festivals and Cultural Events Panelists 

  • Daniel Crupi, executive director of the Asheville Symphony, organizer of Asheville Amadeus  
  • Kirk Swenson, vice chancellor at UNC Asheville and co-founder of Asheville Ideas Fest  
  • Jeff Whitworth, co-founder and talent buyer for AVL Fest  
  • Rhea Lidowski, incoming board president of Chow Chow  

Adaptive Reuse for Boutique Lodging Properties Panelists 

  • Michael McDavid, general manager of The Restoration Hotel 
  • Amy Kelly, founding principal of Hatteras Sky Properties representing The Radical and Zelda Dearest hotels. Philip Woollcott, co-managing principal at JPW Development representing The Flat Iron Hotel 

Other News Announced at the Event 

  • Asheville-based Wicked Weed Brewing and Worthwhile Sounds announced the inaugural AVL Fest, launching August 2-6, 2023. The multi-day music festival will take place at venues across the Asheville area and features a lineup of local, regional and national talent. 
  • The Biltmore Estate has expanded lodging options to include four fully appointed cottages. The estate’s multi-sensory Italian Renaissance Alive exhibition opens March 3. The Winery at Biltmore Estate has recently installed a commissioned Chihuly chandelier.  
  • The UNC Asheville Karl Straus Track will be completed and open to the public in late spring. 
  • The Restoration Hotel anticipates opening its doors to guests on March 27, 2023, while Zelda Dearest, The Radical, and the Flat Iron hotels all expect to open late summer. 


For more information, visit 


About Explore Asheville/BCTDA:  


Established by state law to administer the occupancy tax paid by overnight visitors according to the enabling legislation, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) 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.  



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