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Explore Asheville Logo

July 28, 2021

Greetings on behalf of the Buncombe County TDA

As noted in recent months, Explore Asheville is charting a new course for tourism aligned with broader community priorities. These efforts are being organized around four strategic imperatives: Deliver Balanced Recovery & Sustainable Growth, Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel, Engage & Invite More Diverse Audiences, and Promote & Support Asheville’s Creative Spirit.

Putting this strategy into action by the Explore Asheville team is underway. For the Group Sales division, that includes a partnership with the Economic Development Coalition of Asheville-Buncombe County, led by Clark Duncan, Senior Vice President of Economic Development at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

At this month’s meeting of the Buncombe County TDA, Clark provided an overview of the economic sectors the EDC is aiming to grow. Explore Asheville’s new VP of Sales, Marshall Hilliard, followed with a presentation of how our sales team’s efforts will align with the EDC’s goals as well as our four strategic imperatives. See more about this subject below.

Other topics of discussion included an update on lodging metrics, the re-launch of a BCTDA fund to support our community’s festivals and cultural events, information on partner events next week in support of our Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel strategic imperative, and the celebration of several milestones. We invite you to read on to learn more.

Thank you, as always, for your partnership to help our community thrive again.


BCTDA Celebrates Milestones at July Meeting
Meetings return to in-person; new Board Chair; a fond farewell

The Buncombe County TDA celebrated several milestones at this month's regular meeting of the Board, which also marked the first meeting of the new fiscal year:

  • Return to meeting in-person: After 16 monthly meetings held virtually (plus the annual planning retreat), the BCTDA returned to meeting face-to-face. We will continue to use Zoom or a similar virtual platform to provide members of the public another opportunity to view the meetings in addition to attending in person. We'll also continue to record meetings and post them on along with other meeting documents.
  • Welcome new Board Chair: Kathleen Mosher began her tenure as the new Chair of the BCTDA Board effective July 1. As VP of Communications for The Biltmore Company, Kathleen brings a perspective encompassing a full range of sectors within our tourism community: Attractions, lodging, food and beverage, the outdoors, weddings and events, retail, agritourism,art, and history and culture. Our thanks to Kathleen and new Vice Chair Brenda Durden, Chief Operating Officer for Asheville Hotel Group, for graciously accepting this responsibility.
  • Farewell & thanks to Himanshu Karvir: Himanshu is rotating off the Buncombe County TDA after six years – most recently serving as Board Chair – representing the end of an era in many ways. Himanshu was appointed to the BCTDA when his father-in-law, Bob Patel, completed his own two terms of service on the Board – also six years. We are indeed grateful for the generosity of Himanshu and his family in supporting our work and our community the past 12 years.
Hotel Occupancy Reaches Near-2019 Levels
Local residents with vacation rentals continue to benefit from strong growth

Hotel occupancy for the month of June 2021 reached 81%, nearly double that of June 2020, and just 1% off June 2019 levels. Short-term vacation rentals reached 77% in June 2021, up 20% from the benchmark year of 2019. This continues to be good news for local residents owning vacation rentals and earning more and benefiting from the return of visitors to our community. It marks the second month since the pandemic that hotel occupancy eclipsed vacation rental occupancy.

Lodging Occupancy - June 2021
View Destination Performance Metrics
Sales Plans Align with Strategic Pillars, Economic Development Sectors & Community Assets
Sales strategy includes identifying & engaging purpose-driven companies to choose Asheville for meetings & events

In the hotel industry, a "roomnight" is calculated by multiplying one room times one night. One room booked for five nights, for example, generates five roomnights. In the fiscal year ended June 2019, the Explore Asheville Sales team booked 80,314 roomnights for visitor groups in Buncombe County. These ranged from business meetings, incentive trips and conferences, to weddings, sporting events and reunions.

With the pandemic, that number plunged to just under 25,600, with more than 38,800 roomnights canceled. Accelerating proactive sales efforts to increase net new business to the destination is one of Explore Asheville's group sales strategies. Others – all of which align with our four strategic imperatives – include identifying, qualifying and engaging purpose-driven companies to choose Asheville for meetings and events; increasing outreach in recruiting meetings and events focused on diversity, equity and inclusion; and actively promoting Asheville's creative community and resources to groups and events.

They also include aligning with the broader economic development clusters targeted for growth by the Economic Development Coalition of Asheville-Buncombe County, aiming to bring group travel related to companies and organizations in advanced manufacturing, life sciences, climate technology and the environment, outdoor products and industries, and purpose-driven companies and technology.

Guiding Principles for Sales - fy22

View Group Sales Strategy Presentation
Grant Program for Local Festivals & Cultural Events Relaunched
Applications from nonprofit organizations due September 28 for events taking place in 2022

Buncombe County TDA’s Festivals & Cultural Events Support Fund, started in 2016 to provide financial support for local events that showcase and preserve the cultural identity of the community, has been relaunched following a one-year suspension due to the pandemic and restrictions placed on mass gatherings. Applications for festivals and cultural events occurring in the 2022 calendar year are now being accepted.

Funding for the grant program comes from revenue earned through advertising sales and lodging reservations booked on Occupancy tax revenue, which is governed by North Carolina law and paid by overnight visitors to Buncombe County, is ineligible to be used for this support fund. During the pandemic when the grant program was paused, BCTDA contributed $90,000 from earned revenue to the One Buncombe COVID relief fund.

Get Details on this Grant Opportunity
Events Support BCTDA's Strategic Imperative to 'Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel'
Community is invited to Explore Asheville events on August 3

Webinar: 'Responsible Travel & Sustainability in Tourism'
Tuesday, August 3 | 10 - 11:15 a.m. | Via Zoom

Event will feature a presentation from the Chief Experience Officer for Tourism Cares, followed by an update from Explore Asheville Marketing and Sales teams on related initiatives. The webinar will wrap up with a panel of tourism partners who are embracing sustainability measures in their businesses. LEARN MORE & REGISTER >>

Summer Social & Sustainability Resource Fair
Tuesday, August 3 | 4 - 6 p.m. | Highland Brewing

With the 6th largest solar array of all independent, craft breweries in the U.S., Highland Brewing is an ideal location for Explore Asheville's first in-person Summer Social since 2019, featuring a Sustainability Resource Fair with local organizations focused on sustainability and the environment. LEARN MORE & RSVP >>


Find meeting documents and a recording of the July 28 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, August 25 | 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Explore Asheville CVB | 27 College Place | Asheville
More details will be posted HERE>>

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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Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

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