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August 25, 2021

Greetings on behalf of the Buncombe County TDA

People are at the heart of travel and hospitality. From tour outfitters and craft brewers to shop owners, attraction operators, chefs, artists, hoteliers and musicians, humans are at the heart of genuine hospitality – and essential in the delivery of the travel experience.

At today’s meeting of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, four local small-business owners who were among the 394 recipients of the TDA’s Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund shared stories of how they’ve managed to survive what has been one of the most challenging years on record. Torin Kexel of The Flying Bike electric bicycle touring company, Cristina Hall Ackley of Ginger’s Revenge craft brewery, Tim Green of Sole82 shoe and apparel shop, and Rich Cundiff of Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack restaurants provided a glimpse of what heart, hospitality, fortitude and resilience is all about. See more below.

Their stories were part of a report on the impacts of the $5 million grant program, which showed a remarkable 97% of grantees were still in business one year after receiving funding, with 3,979 jobs retained. “That’s a lot of families putting food on the table and a lot of businesses thriving due to this support,” noted Noah Wilson of Mountain BizWorks, which administered the fund for the BCTDA.

Torin, Cristina, Tim and Rich represent Explore Asheville’s 1,300 tourism partners and the thousands of local people on their teams. It’s the people behind such businesses that are the heart of hospitality in our community. "The Heart of Hospitality" is also the focus of our Annual Meeting on September 15, to be held at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium (at which we'll follow all recommended and required safety precautions). We hope you’ll join us.


July 2021 Hotel Occupancy Rebounds Back to 2019 Levels
Local residents with vacation rentals continue to benefit

Hotel occupancy for the month of July 2021 reached 83%, nearly double that of July 2020, and on par with July 2019 levels. Short-term vacation rentals reached 82% in July 2021, up 19% 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 third month since the pandemic that hotel occupancy eclipsed vacation rental occupancy.

July Lodging Occupancy

View Destination Performance Metrics
TDA's Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund: 97% of Grant Recipients Still in Business 12 Months Later
Nearly 4,000 jobs retained/re-hired, approaching pre-pandemic levels

Legislation signed into law in May 2020 allowed the Buncombe County TDA to appropriate $5 million from the Tourism Product Development Fund (revenue that had been collected but not yet awarded) to establish the Buncombe Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund, a one-time emergency grant program. A survey of grantees conducted one year after receiving funding revealed remarkable results in meeting the objective of helping local small businesses safely and sustainably reopen, providing the support to protect jobs for local people.

12-Month Report - Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund
Grant recipients share stories of fund's impact

Four of the nearly 400 recipients of the Buncombe Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund shared the impacts of the grant money on their businesses. Here's some of what they had to say.

Torin Kexel - The Flying Bike
(South Slope Downtown; Grant Award: $8,625)

“We were shut down for 4 months and didn’t know what to expect; didn’t know if we’d be able to open again. The grant helped us weather that storm. It also helped us not only reopen but hire. We’re now up to triple the number of staff we had going into COVID.” View more of Torin's story >>

Cristina Hall Ackley - Ginger's Revenge
(North Asheville/Woodfin Area near UNC Asheville; Grant Award: $19,780)

"Our team went from 11 members to 6. This grant gave us the confidence to not just hire back our front-of-house team, but specifically a tasting room manager [which] allowed me to focus on other areas of the business: strategy, financial planning, hiring…Now our team is 17 people strong, which is amazing." View more of Cristina's story >>

Tim Green - Sole82
(The Block Downtown; Micro Grant Award: $5,000)

"I was able to hire two people to help me during morning times…I am unable to do that because I still work my first shift job at Eaton. Without the fund I wouldn’t have been able to do it and my business would not have been able to scale up as it has during the summertime with the tourists coming in." View more of Tim's story >>
Photo by Renato Rotolo, The Urban News

Rich Cundiff - Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack
(West Asheville, Arden; Grant Award: $22,500)

"This grant is what shifted me from a position of panic and reaction to planning for the future. When we closed our dining room, to-go was about 20% of our business and that’s all we had to live on. We decided to build to-go huts…our sales tripled. Thank you. You made a real difference for about 80 of us." View more of Rich's story >>

Tourism businesses are committed to community; challenges & opportunities remain

Other findings in the one-year report: Tourism has broad impacts in the community beyond jobs for local people and the financial well-being of local small businesses. Grant recipients reported local procurement, sustainability and other socially responsible practices in running their operations.

Despite the resounding success of the grant program, challenges remain for our community and its small businesses. Similar to other growing, thriving cities across the country, issues in Asheville and Buncombe persist around safety, parking, affordable housing and labor shortages – all challenges that will require collective action and collaboration among public and private partners.

View Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund Presentation
North Carolina Legislative Update
Local hotel leaders continue to advocate for change in occupancy tax allocations

Asheville area hotel leaders continue to advocate for a change in Buncombe County legislation requesting an amendment for legislation to be introduced and passed before the end of this session that would change occupancy tax allocations from a split of 75% marketing, 25% product investment to one of two-thirds marketing, one-third product investment. Local occupancy tax bills passed in the House, but remain sitting in the Senate.

More Information
Buncombe County TDA Members Rotate Off Board After 28 Collective Years of Service
City & County to appoint replacements in September

Outgoing board members

We are grateful for the dedicated members of the Buncombe County TDA who completed their collective 28 years of service as of the August meeting.

  • GARY FROEBA. Service: November 2015–August 2021. Offices: Board Chair (2019–2020); Vice Chair (2017–2019, 2020–2021). Appointed by: County (Category: Lodging 101+ Rooms)
  • HIMANSHU KARVIR. Service: October 2015–August 2021. Offices: Chair (2020–2021); Vice Chair (2019–2020). Appointed by: City (Category: Lodging 101+ Rooms)
  • JOHN LUCKETT. Service: October 2015–August 2021. Appointed by: City (Category: Lodging 101+ Rooms)
  • JOHN McKIBBON. Service: September 2013–August 2021. Appointed by: County (Category: Lodging <101 Rooms)
  • JAMES POOLE. Service: September 2019–July 2021 (resigned before term expired). Appointed by: City (Category: Lodging <100 Rooms)

Both Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commissioners expect to appoint new members before the next board meeting on September 29.

Upcoming Events Support BCTDA's Strategic Pillars
Strategic Pillar: Promote & Support Asheville’s Creative Spirit

Festivals & Cultural Events

Information Session: Annual Festivals & Cultural Events Grants Program
Wednesday, September 1 | 3:30 - 5 p.m. | Explore Asheville CVB

Organizations conducting festivals and cultural events in 2022 are invited to learn more about submitting applications for grant support. The deadline to apply is September 28 and awards will be announced in late October.

Learn More & Register
Strategic Pillar: Engage & Invite More Diverse Audiences

Artist Rendering - African American Heritage Trail

Community Input Sessions: African American Heritage Trail 
September 4, 5, 11 & 18 | YMI’s Community Impact Center

Drop in to provide input on the Heritage Trail that will present stories from historic African American communities by way of themes that include community life, entrepreneurship, faith, entertainment, and education.

Learn More
Strategic Pillar: Deliver Balanced Recovery & Sustainable Growth

Event: Annual Meeting of the Buncombe County TDA
Wednesday, September 15 | 3 - 6 p.m. | Thomas Wolfe Auditorium

After what has been one of the most challenging years on record, join the TDA and Explore Asheville to recognize our community's heart, hospitality, fortitude and resilience, charting a path for our future together.

Learn More & Register

Find meeting documents and a recording of the August 25 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, September 29 | 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Location & other 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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