About that hotel tax…

“Oh, another hotel” isn’t an uncommon refrain heard around Asheville. But for every occupant of those hotels, there’s a tax — one that brings in $7 million a year — and goes not to any government, but to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.

The hotel occupancy tax is four cents on the dollar in Buncombe. When first passed in 1983 (as a two cents on the dollar tax), it brought in less than $400,000. By last year, however, that amount had grown to about $7 million.

By state statute, the hotel tax goes to the TDA, who spend the lion’s share — $5.2 million — on marketing Asheville. To hear Kelly Miller, executive director of the Asheville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, tell it, it’s a major reason the area has become better known.

“It’s used to promoted and market Asheville globally,” Miller tells Xpress, claiming that events like Asheville making a Fodor’s list and winning Beer City USA are due to occupancy tax funds going to the TDA. “This is the reason we are on those lists. We just got back from New York, where we called on the major publishing houses and media outlets, to tell the Asheville story. With Beer City USA, it was our staff helping to drive that and jump-starting the online voting.”

The remainder of the funds has, over the years, gone to a variety of projects, including the Orange Peel’s expansion, Pack Square Park, and the wayfinding signs.

While the vast majority of the county’s hotels are in Asheville, the tax is technically Buncombe’s. To receive its own hotel tax — something that has been suggested over the years as a source of much-needed revenue for the city’s coffers — Asheville would need to go through the General Assembly. Such a step isn’t entirely uncommon, municipalities from Boone to Wilmington have their own occupancy tax, but smooth passage does require the whole local delegation acting in agreement.

Buncombe’s hotel tax is relatively low. According to information from the North Carolina Department of Revenue, Wake County has a 6 cents tax and Mecklenburg an 8 cents tax, for example.

— David Forbes, senior news reporter

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23 thoughts on “About that hotel tax…

  1. Sounds like somebody’s trying to do damage control after the “Wayfaring Sign” debacle. Not working for me.

  2. Charlie

    Kudos to all of you in Asheville that create the “Asheville story” that gives the TDA something to spend that 5.2 million dollars on. Theatre, music, dance, visual artists; restauranteurs, graphic artists, street performers, small business owners, etc. Wow, my theatre sure could benefit from a, say, $5,000 grant to enhance my marketing budget to help create more and better “story”. That would be awesome.

  3. Truth

    I can’t believe that Kelly wants to take credit for the Beer City USA poll. That was won by a major push through social media, the local brewers, word of mouth and damn good beer! The TDA doesn’t deserve this money from the hotel tax. The people who bust their butts working for all these hotels providing ‘legendary service’ to all the ungrateful tourists deserve the recognition. So, kudos to the Concierge, the Front Desk Clerk, the Housekeeper, etc, etc, etc for all you do. You rarely ever get the respect that you deserve. Thank you again for all your hard work.

  4. shadmarsh

    Lets call it what it really is: the rich stealing from the (relatively) poor.

  5. Curious

    ” . . .Wow, my theatre sure could benefit from a, say, $5,000 grant to enhance my marketing budget to help create more and better ‘story’. ..”, says Charlie.

    Didn’t Charlie get $50,000 to start a website?

  6. dpewen

    I do not believe the hotel tax is stealing from the poor … it is a good tax on tourism. I play tourist a lot and don’t mind the taxes … and I always tip the housekeepers!

  7. dpewen

    It’s a state statue … nothing to see here!
    I am very happy to see that the OP is getting a share … what a great venue.

  8. truthseeker

    The Orange Peel is owned by PIP, who owns the property where the hotel will go. Gee, that works well for those guys.

  9. Media Watcher

    Would it help if the MX published a copy of the BCTDA’s budget? Or a list of the projects it has funded?
    The John B. Lewis Soccer Complex at Azalea Park $400,000 $400,000 $500,000
    Grove Arcade Public Market $500,000 2
    The Bonsai Garden at the North Carolina Arboretum $750,000 2003
    Asheville Visitor Center $750,000 2003
    Western North Carolina Veterans’ Memorial at Pack Square Park $67,000 2007
    Buncombe County Civil War Trails $16,500 2007
    Asheville Area Wayfinding Program $1,650,000 2007
    Pack Square Park $500,000 $1,500,000 $500,000
    The Health Adventure/ Momentum $500,000
    $1,000,000 $500,000
    Asheville Art Museum $1,000,000
    $500,000
    Bob Moog Museum $600,000 2009
    The Orange Peel $300,000 loan guaranty

  10. sharpleycladd

    Are the “wayfinder signs” those blank sheets of steel with the shreds of vinyl hanging off em?

  11. ashevillain7

    Keeping the issue of the quality of the signs to the side for a moment. Did it really even make sense to fabricate these signs in the first place? State tax dollars already go to the creation of the DOT signs. In a lot of cases these TDA signs are covering up the DOT signs! Taxpayers paid for the DOT signs and the TDA is taking away their usefulness (whatever and to whomever that may be). State taxes are compulsory…we didn’t have a choice. The TDA did have a choice and chose to usurp taxpayer funds.

  12. Thnkx Ashevillain7…you question leads right back to mine. Transparency???? Who decides? Who does the TDA have to answer to with all those funds they get????/

  13. There is alway the need to look closely. There’s obviously a lot of money flowing through BCTDA…who is doing oversight?

  14. Ashevillejoe

    It seems as if this money should go towards developing a healthy local economy, not explicitly towards tourism. Tourism is ok, so long as it is part an economy, but we rely on it far to much in WNC. Why does the tourism industry get it’s own tax to promote itself? No other industry has that power. This money should go to a democratically controlled local economy development organization, not to an organization removed from any sort of popular oversight.

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