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Explore Asheville Logo

October 27, 2021

Greetings on behalf of the Buncombe County TDA

The beauty of the mountains surrounding Asheville have beckoned visitors for generations. In the last year in particular, the region's fresh air and wide-open spaces offered refuge for those willing and able to travel, many choosing to stay in vacation rentals that resulted in record occupancy tax collections. Especially during this colorful season, it's no surprise that the Blue Ridge Parkway is the most-visited national park service unit in the U.S.

Deliver Balanced Recovery & Sustainable Growth and Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel are two strategic imperatives adopted by the Buncombe County TDA based on shared community priorities. As we inspire travelers to visit our mountain community and contribute to the area’s economy, we also recognize the critical need to protect our natural, cultural and human resources.

Today's monthly BCTDA meeting included an overview of Explore Asheville's marketing efforts that address responsible travel. We also heard presentations from new Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Tracy Swartout and Buncombe County officials leading the development of the county's 2043 Comprehensive Plan.

The board approved $110,000 in grant funding for 26 local festivals and cultural events taking place in 2022. Grants are funded through advertising sales on We also welcomed two new board members appointed by County Commissioners, adding to the three Asheville City Council appointees who joined us last month. We are pleased that our current board member roster is now complete.

We invite you to read on for details and thank you, as always, for your partnership in helping our community to thrive.

Marketing Update: Safe & Responsible Travel
Inviting visitors to experience and care for our natural resources extends through national television shows and website and social media content partnerships

In addition to engaging residents and visitors with shared values to care and respect natural, cultural and human resources, the strategic imperative Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel includes supporting the sustainability and growth of the outdoor economy. Explore Asheville is aligning marketing activities with this strategic imperative in numerous ways, as reported by Senior VP Marla Tambellini in a presentation to the board. Highlights include:

  • PARK2PARK on OUTSIDE TV: In the Park2Park Venturing Out series on Outside TV, outdoor enthusiast Raheim Robinson coaches locals in overcoming the fear of trying a new outdoor adventure. The resulting 30-minute episodes support the area's outdoor economy and position Asheville as the premier outdoor destination of the East.
  • OUTDOOR INFLUENCER: Through a partnership with Matador, the world's largest independent travel publisher, known as the "global media brand for modern adventurers," outdoor adventure photographer and influencer Jacob Moon was brought in to amplify the messages of safe and responsible travel while visiting.
  • LEAVE NO TRACE: Explore Asheville is promoting principles of the Leave No Trace initiative, which works to protect the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. In addition to LNT messaging throughout the CVB's website and social channels, a toolkit is under development to help partners to do the same.
  • PLEDGE FOR THE WILD: Asheville is the first destination in the Eastern U.S. to sign onto this platform that not only educates visitors and residents about responsible tourism but provides a direct channel for supporting beloved wild places financially. Local donations to Pledge for the Wild benefit the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.
VIEW PRESENTATION: Safe & Responsible Travel
26 Local Festivals & Cultural Events Receive Grant Support from Buncombe County TDA
Events and festivals that residents and visitors can join in celebrating our community will receive a total of $110,000 in 2022

An eclectic collection of 26 community festivals and cultural events that align with the BCTDA's strategic imperatives and where residents as well as visitors can join in celebrating will receive financial support in 2022 through the authority's Festivals & Cultural Events Support Fund.

The grants, totaling $110,000, are made possible using unrestricted, earned revenue collected through advertising sales and lodging reservations booked on This earned revenue fund is another way the Buncombe County TDA invests in our community. It does not have the same state level restrictions as occupancy tax revenue. See the list of fund recipients here. >>

VIEW PRESENTATION: Festivals & Cultural Events Support Fund
Occupancy Stats Show Ongoing Trend Toward Balanced Recovery for Lodging Partners
Yet, year-to-date numbers for hotels reveal continued challenges

Occupancy rates continue to illustrate balanced recovery for local lodging partners. Hotel occupancy reached 75% in September, 15 percentage points higher than 2020 and up 2% from 2019 levels. Vacation rentals reached 70% this September. Although they were off four points from 2020, vacation rentals were up 6% from the benchmark year of 2019. 


September 2021 Lodging Occupancy

But a closer look at hotel occupancy year to date tells a different story. While 2021 YTD hotel occupancy is up 48% from 2020, it's still seven percentage points off from the benchmark year of 2019.


YTD through September 2021

VIEW REPORT: Destination Performance Metrics
Partner Organizations Provide Updates

Consistent with the Buncombe County TDA's commitment to serve as a collaborative partner in helping our community thrive, we welcomed three guest speakers to this month's meeting to provide an update on their organizations' goals and plans, which align with the BCTDA's strategic imperatives.

NEW PARKWAY SUPERINTENDENT: New Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Tracy Swartout relayed her thoughts on charting the future for this treasured natural resource. Read more about Superintendent Swartout. >>


BUNCOMBE COUNTY COMPREHENSIVE PLAN: Assistant County Manager Sybil Tate and Planning & Development Director Nathan Pennington presented an overview of the Buncombe County Comprehensive Plan 2043, a broad, long-range planning tool for the community. The plan will focus on the next 20-year period and will look at the relationships between land uses, infrastructure and key community needs, among other factors. Learn more about this project. >>

VIEW PRESENTATION: Buncombe County Comp Plan
Welcome New TDA Board Members

We welcome two members of the BCTDA recently appointed by Buncombe County Commissioners according to the guidelines of the legislation.

HP PATEL is President of BCA Hotels, which includes the Best Western, Glō, Comfort Inn, and Tru Hilton. He represents a lodging property with 101-plus rooms and has operated hotels in Asheville for 20 years.

Scott Patel

SCOTT PATEL is General Manager of Pure Hospitality, which includes Sleep Inn Asheville–Biltmore West. He represents a property with 100 or fewer rooms. A resident of Buncombe County for 10 years, Scott has been in the hospitality business since the age of 16.

They join three other new appointees, completing our current board member roster: Larry Crosby, General Manager, The Foundry Hotel; Matthew Lehman, General Manager, The Grand Bohemian Hotel; and Michal Lusick, VP of Hospitality, FIRC Group, LLC.

Coming in November: College Basketball Tourney Puts Asheville in the National Spotlight

Explore Asheville is a lead sponsor of college basketball's newest test for top programs looking to set the tone for the season. The inaugural Asheville Championship will take place at Harrah’s Cherokee Center–Asheville, featuring South Carolina, Minnesota, Western Kentucky, and Princeton. The tournament will air on the ESPN family of networks on Friday, Nov. 12 and Sunday, Nov. 14, providing Asheville with exposure through TV spots, video segments, signage and even the integration of our Asheville branding into the event logo.

As part of the promotion for the Asheville Championship, a locally manufactured LiquidLogic kayak will be given away by each college, along with a giveaway here in Asheville. (See an example of one of the kayaks shown above with the Princeton University team.) Locally, Explore Asheville is using our kayak giveaway to shine a spotlight on Pledge for the Wild to generate funds to benefit the good work of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. Watch for more information on ways to enter the drawing and make a donation to the Parkway Foundation through the Pledge for the Wild.

MORE INFO: Asheville Championship + Tickets

Find meeting documents and a recording of the October 27 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, November 17* | 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. | Via Zoom Webinar
Registration & other details will be posted HERE >>

*Held a week earlier than usual due to the Thanksgiving holiday

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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