With the area’s formerly booming tourism industry mostly on hold as COVID-19 infection rates in nearby markets remain high, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority faces an uncertain future. Add in a leadership transition, potential changes to the legislation that controls the distribution of local occupancy tax revenues and public hostility to the industry, and more questions than answers emerge.
Buncombe County’s Tourist Development Authority began advertising for tourists to visit Asheville again — on the same day that the county’s top public health official said coronavirus cases were “rising at an alarming rate.”
A late June report from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association found that 77% of growers reliant on agritourism had seen reduced income since the start of COVID-19. But as the pandemic continues, Western North Carolina’s farms are finding safe, creative ways to share the agricultural experience with visitors.
Restaurants, brewers, hoteliers, tour companies and retailers were all among the 449 named Paycheck Protection Program beneficiaries with headquarters in Asheville. At least 46 of those entities also received help from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to fill needs unmet by the federal loan effort.
A bill that would have changed the distribution of Buncombe County’s controversial hotel tax to better benefit local government is likely dead until at least next year. The change would have reduced the share of room tax money to market and advertise Asheville as a tourist destination.
During a June 24 meeting, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority board heard a presentation from marketing firm 360i about a new advertising campaign, scheduled to start in July, designed to attract a “responsible tourist audience” to the region. Ads will target visitors whose behaviors agree with “psychographic statements” about “willingness to conform.”
Data from the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority shows that just 1,210 people boarded a plane at the airport in April, the latest month for which information is available. That number marks a 98% decrease from the 61,230 enplanements reported in April 2019.
After a peaceful demonstration of thousands in downtown Asheville turned violent around 10:30 p.m. on Monday evening, some attendees smashed windows and spray-painted graffiti on downtown buildings and the Vance Monument.
“Our objective is to safely and responsibly encourage travel, working hand-in-hand with our local health officials and government, as we move toward that direct invitation of visitors to our community,” said Marla Tambellini, Explore Asheville’s vice president of marketing.
As of May 25, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, there are zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hot Springs. However, the town is still following statewide protocols to help flatten the curve of coronavirus infections, and businesses such as Laughing Heart Lodge have borne the impacts.
A new county policy to require the wearing of face coverings at all indoor public facilities will go into effect on Tuesday, May 26, at 7 a.m., announced Brownie Newman, chair of the Buncombe Board of Commissioners, during a May 22 press conference. The county commissioners passed a resolution directing staff to develop the policy […]
Funds supported with tax money from Buncombe County, the city of Asheville and the Tourism Development Authority are being managed by the nonprofit Mountain BizWorks. Because of this arrangement, government and TDA officials say they will play no direct role in determining what area businesses and nonprofits receive public dollars.
Coronavirus relief is just the latest topic in an ongoing debate over whether the Tourism Development Authority, with its mission to bring ever more overnight guests to Buncombe County, is good for county residents — or just good for the hotel industry that has controlled it since its inception nearly four decades ago.
Buncombe hotels can now host more visitors — as long as they have an 828 area code. The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has announced a coronavirus-inflected legislative agenda, and $5,000 micro grants are available for local startups.
The legislative change allows the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to use $5 million from its Tourism Product Development Fund — which previously had to be allocated to nonprofit entities or local government and spent on capital projects — for grants of up to $50,000 in support of tourism businesses other than lodging.
In its first story, news nonprofit AVL Watchdog looks at many possible paths to recovery from the COVID-19-induced economic crisis unfolding in Asheville and Buncombe County.
The new executive order, effective 5 p.m. on Monday, April 13, limits shoppers to 20% of a store’s permitted fire capacity or five customers per 1,000 square feet. High-volume locations such as checkouts must mark six-foot spaces to ensure social distancing in customer lines, and all stores must conduct “frequent and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas.”
In the first weekend of March, said Explore Asheville’s Marla Tambellini, hotels throughout the county were at roughly 90% occupancy. By March 27-28, only about 15% of rooms were filled, and the average price for those accommodations was approximately half its usual rate — $80 instead of $160.
The new order, which will take effect at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, orders “all individuals anywhere in Buncombe County to stay at home,” with limited exceptions for essential activities, through 6 a.m. Thursday, April 9.
Unlike other local instances of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, explained Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, county health workers had been unable to trace at least two cases to a specific source — suggesting that the infection is spreading within the county at large.