Buncombe’s TDA moves to improve the tourism fund & envision a new ‘Foodtopia’

Buncombe County TDA board members include Bob Patel, chair, and Stephanie Brown, executive director of Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau (center). (Carrie Eidson/ Mountain Xpress)

The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) held its monthly board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 29. Items on the agenda included a first look at the new Foodtopia marketing campaign and a study recommending changes to the Tourism Product Development Fund.

Marla Tambellini from Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau and Christy Blain and Anne Elwell from Mullen advertising agency presented a new initiative for Foodtopia, the TDA’s food-centric marketing campaign, built around the key message, “Asheville is where free-spirited food-enthusiasts come to play.”

The presentation included plans for further development of a logo and tagline, new advertisements with digital components including profiles of area foodies and food institutions, a tablet-based E-book and public and private events (not funded by the TDA). The campaign’s suggested budget — $82,500 — did not include proposed media outreach costs, such as purchased slots on broadcast programming. The board requested additional consumer testing on the advertisements and a budget resolution will be discussed at the next meeting, Feb. 26.

Board members agreed to implement recommendations from a study done by Mike Konzen of PGAV Destinations, an architecture and planning firm based in St. Louis, Mo., to modify and improve the Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF), which awards funds raise through occupancy tax revenue to bricks and mortar projects judge to increase tourism by generating overnight stays in Buncombe County.

“Your product development fund is something that many communities across the country look to as a good model, as something that many people would wish to have or are actively seeking,” Konzen told the board.

The study recommended formalizing applicant requirements, initiating a two-step application process to weed out proposals that did not meet requirements, monitoring the use of funds by recipients and holding Q-and-A meetings for interested applicants, in addition to public ceremonies that would celebrate the achievements of the fund.

The board also passed a recommendation by the TPDF committee to grant an extension to the Asheville Art Museum to come into compliance with its own fundraising goals before TDPF funds, awarded in previous years, can be granted. The extension would give the museum until Aug. 1 to raise the $17 million it estimates is needed for a remodeling and expansion project and is contingent on an audit to verify the museum’s claim that, to date, it has raised $13 million.

The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority oversees tourism marketing, sales and product development efforts and the expenditure of the county’s four percent occupancy tax revenues. It was created in 1983 and meets monthly at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

For more information on the BCTDA, visit http://bctda.org.


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About Carrie Eidson
Multimedia journalist and Green Scene editor at Mountain Xpress. Part-time Twitterer @mxenv but also reachable at ceidson@mountainx.com. Follow me @carrieeidson

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