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November 17, 2021

Greetings on behalf of the Buncombe County TDA

The November meeting of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority included an update on the status of the Tourism Product Development Fund. Some of Asheville’s most cherished venues, attractions and facilities have benefited from more than $44 million in community investment from the Buncombe County TDA through the fund, which comes from 25 percent of the lodging tax paid by guests to our community. To date, nearly 40 community projects have received grants through the TPDF.

In 2019, the TPDF's yearly grant cycle was paused while the BCTDA launched the Tourism Management & Investment Plan; in 2020 the pandemic interrupted that process. Today, the Board approved a plan to host a Tourism Product Development Fund grant cycle in 2022 and a call for prospective candidates to fill vacant seats on the TPDF Committee. Members of this committee spend countless hours reviewing project proposals and are responsible for making funding recommendations to the BCTDA based on grant requirements mandated by state legislation.

We also celebrated this week's announcement of the return of a world-class tennis event to Asheville for the third time in five years. The Billie Jean King Cup (formerly the Fed Cup) will take place in April, putting Asheville in the international spotlight. We were happy to work alongside our partners at the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission and Harrah's Cherokee Center–Asheville to secure this event for our community. Asheville will become the second U.S. city in history to host the event three times.

With the second half of the fiscal year just around the corner, we also got an update on Explore Asheville's marketing plans and activities with a focus on balanced recovery, sustainable growth and Asheville's creative spirit. We invite you to read on for details on this presentation and others from today's meeting.

Thank you, as always, for your partnership in helping our community to thrive.

Sample recipients of Tourism Product Development Fund
Update: Buncombe County TDA's Tourism Product Development Fund
Grant cycle to take place in 2022; BCTDA seeking candidates to serve on TPDF Committee

In recent meetings of the Buncombe County TDA, Explore Asheville President & CEO Vic Isley shared plans to align next steps for the Tourism Product Development Fund with those of major municipal stakeholders, taking into consideration broader community goals and state legislative requirements.

To that end, today the BCTDA approved a proposed timeline for a TPDF grant cycle in 2022. Criteria for project proposals will be based on existing legislation, which includes the following core requirements: Funding must be for capital investments only; projects must demonstrate that they will create substantial new and incremental hotel room nights in Buncombe County; projects are restricted to nonprofit organizations, including municipal partners.

The BCTDA will issue a call for TPDF Committee applicants in December and appoint members by February. The deadline for Phase 1 funding applications will be in May; grant recipients will be announced in late Fall.


The TPDF's yearly grant cycle was paused in 2019 for the community initiative, Buncombe County Tourism Management & Investment Plan to Develop Community Assets (TMIP), which brought together public entities, tourism officials and the community to develop data-based recommendations to guide future TPDF investment.

The pandemic interrupted that process. Emergency legislation at the state level allowed the BCTDA to disburse $5 million in unallocated TPDF funds to tourism related businesses for COVID relief. Of the nearly 400 local businesses that received funding, 97 percent are still operational today.

Currently, Explore Asheville is in regular contact with primary stakeholder partners at the County and City level whose leaders are evaluating how to invest and manage federal COVID relief funding from multiple streams. The goal of Explore Asheville is to work with these partners to strategically leverage available TPDF dollars for the benefit of the community.

US Tennis Association
Billie Jean King Cup Puts Asheville in the International Spotlight in 2022
World cup of women's tennis selects Asheville for the 3rd time

This week the U.S. Tennis Association announced the Billie Jean King Cup ties will return to Asheville for the third time in five years, April 15-16, 2022. The last event was held here in 2019 (known then as the Fed Cup) and generated more than $3 million in direct spending with local businesses and a total economic impact of $4.7 million, helping support jobs for area residents.

The team at Explore Asheville worked alongside partners at the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission and Harrah's Cherokee Center–Asheville to secure this event for our community, which will bring international exposure as well as important economic and social benefits.

The name of the Billie Jean King Cup aligns this event with a global icon who has dedicated her life to fighting injustice, inequality and discrimination in all forms. One of USTA's core values is diversity and inclusion, which aligns with Explore Asheville's strategic pillar to Engage & Invite More Diverse Audiences to our destination.

The announcement came just two days after the inaugural Asheville Championship that aired on the ESPN family of networks and provided Asheville with exposure through TV spots, video segments, signage and even the integration of our Asheville branding into the event logo.

TICKETS: Billie Jean King Cup
Marketing Update: Holiday Promotions, Media Partnerships, Content Development & More 
Initiatives align with strategic imperatives & set the stage for the second half of the fiscal year

In her presentation to the board last month, Senior VP Marla Tambellini highlighted marketing efforts that support the strategic imperative Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel. Today she shared an update on marketing activities aligned with the strategic imperatives Deliver Balanced Recovery & Sustainable Growth and Promote & Support Asheville’s & Creative Spirit.  

Explore Asheville Holiday Guide Guide
  • HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: Asheville's creative and entrepreneurial spirit is on display in the Explore Asheville Holiday Guide, which features more than 80 authentic goods from some of the area's top creatives, makers and craftspeople – from handmade wares to specialty food and beverages.
Monocle Magazine
  • MEDIA PARTNERSHIPS: Other Explore Asheville media partnerships include Monocle, which targets a domestic and international audience of decision-makers and business influencers, and Atlas Obscura, an award-winning media and travel company whose mission is to inspire travelers interested in fascinating places around the world.
River Arts District
  • VISITOR DISPERSAL: New content on meant to encourage visitor dispersal outside of downtown features the River Arts District microsite, showcasing the colorful neighborhood's eclectic mix of dining, vibrant murals, unique shopping and access to the French Broad River.
Good Morning America in Asheville
North Carolina Legislative Updates
State budget includes $500 million in grants for hospitality businesses; occupancy tax bills remain sitting in Senate

Highlights of a new, comprehensive budget for North Carolina include the following:

$30M FOR STATE TOURISM PROMOTION: The Visit NC marketing budget includes an additional $30 million over three years for state tourism promotion (as part of American Rescue Plan Act stimulus funding).

$500M FOR GRANTS TO HOSPITALITY BUSINESSES: Direct grants of up to $500,000 will be available to businesses that experienced losses of 20 percent or more during the pandemic; $300 million of these funds are specifically protected for businesses in NAIC codes 71 and 72, which are primarily restaurants, hotels, bars and other entertainment businesses.

PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM EXPENSE DEDUCTIBILITY: North Carolina was one of the last states in the country to enable business expenses made with PPP funds deductible for state income tax purposes.

$5M FOR WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: The N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association was appropriated $5 million to run a statewide campaign to recruit workers to the hospitality industry.

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

FY 2021 BCTDA Annual Report Now Available
On the road to recovery, thanks to community fortitude, resilience, innovation & determination

The Buncombe County TDA Annual Report is now available for download, providing a.quick review of the fiscal year that ended in June 2021, plus a look ahead to plans for the future.

As noted in the report, our community is beginning to thrive again after one of the most challenging years on record. We’re on the road to recovery and charting a new course for travel and tourism based on broader community goals.

Buncombe County TDA Annual Report
Invitation - Holiday Party
RSVP NOW: Holiday Party

Find meeting documents and a recording of the November 17 board meeting HERE >>

Wednesday, January 26* | 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. | Via Zoom Webinar
Registration & other details will be posted HERE >>

*The December meeting of the BCTDA has been canceled

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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