2018 in review: Top Buncombe tourism accomplishments, by Stephanie Pace Brown

Stephanie Pace Brown, president and CEO of Explore Asheville

Tourism is essential to Asheville’s vitality. The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s investment in tourism promotion drives $3.1 billion in economic impact, creating a customer base for local businesses and investing in community assets enjoyed by residents. 2018 highlights include:

  1. BCTDA awards $10 million for community projects. The six recipients of the 2018 Tourism Product Development Fund, including a $6 million investment with Buncombe County Parks, will be used by thousands of residents in addition to visitors.
  2. African-American heritage initiative partnership develops. $1.6 million in TPDF funds will support a series of projects in the Eagle Street area. Additionally, Explore Asheville will work with project stakeholders to develop interpretive experiences for an African-American Heritage District.
  3. Wages increase across hospitality industry. New 2018 research shows that Asheville area hotels pay 19 percent more than counterparts across North Carolina.
  4. Asheville recognized as top music town. Explore Asheville’s campaign to grow awareness for the city’s music scene earned accolades in American Songwriter, Fodor’s, Consequence of Sound, Paste and honors from U.S. Travel and the HSMAI Adrian Awards.
  5. Explore Asheville celebrates first year as an independent organization, representing 1,200 local businesses and 27,241 jobs.
  6. Signature culinary event honors Appalachia. BCTDA approved $75,000 from its event fund to support Asheville chefs and makers, and provide marketing support for Chow Chow: An Asheville Culinary Event coming September 2019.
  7. Fed Cup returns to Asheville. After a significant community effort to welcome tennis greats for the 2018 Fed Cup, Explore Asheville provides necessary support to help earn Asheville the rare honor of twice hosting the world’s largest annual international team competition in women’s sport, returning in 2019.
  8. Summer of Glass. Explore Asheville worked alongside arts organizations, local glass artists and Biltmore to tell the story of glass art in the region.
  9. Google Partnership launches. Explore Asheville launches a destinationwide effort to help local tourism businesses earn positioning in the Google ecosystem through training and support.
  10. “Asheville By Design” premieres on National Geographic Channel. This national cable program features the intentionality that gave shape and character to our mountain home.

Stephanie Pace Brown is president and CEO of Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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20 thoughts on “2018 in review: Top Buncombe tourism accomplishments, by Stephanie Pace Brown

  1. Lou

    I have to say that Asheville is on the way to disaster. We talk about how important tourism is, but what about the people who live in this town, pay taxes, drive on the roads, earn a living? Wages are too low, roads are full of trash and potholes, traffic is awful and people drive too damn fast. Those coming through here daily pay no taxes to maintain the roads, why can’t we install tolls for those coming and going? How about posting speed notice signs and cameras to snap pics of those constantly driving at breakneck speed, then mail tickets to those breaking the law? I am looking to get out of this town, only been here five years but already so over it. Pretty, yes, but certainly not enough so to warrant the disappointment I feel over the way the city is letting those of us who have invested our lives in it to stay.

    • Lulz

      And not only that but the fools in charge are preventing residents from benefiting from it with their homestay bans. They only want them to pay while the greedy hotel industry along with their “progressive” lackeys in government laugh.

  2. NFB

    “Wages increase across hospitality industry. New 2018 research shows that Asheville area hotels pay 19 percent more than counterparts across North Carolina.”

    But it is still nowhere near a living wage which is kind of ironic since tourism increasing the cost of living for people who live here. Not that I would expect the president and CEO of Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau to acknowledge that tourism has any downsides whatsoever.

  3. OzarksRazor

    Where oh where do I begin?
    TDA and associated organizations are not only a big ole’ bucket of wasteful spending, but detrimental to the citizens of our community over the long haul. The narrative that force-feeding even more tourism down the community’s throat somehow benefits Ashevillians is immorally condescending at best.
    We have been a tourist destination for decades. Throwing more and more money out to the ether to further drive up our traffic numbers by the thousands hurts our already lacking infrastructure. It hurts our neighbourhoods.
    The “Hotel Tax” doesn’t pay/subsidize it.
    We pay for it.
    Our neighbours pay for it.
    Our people of colour friends and families, who have been driven out at an astonishing rate, paid for it.
    (Then, sprinkling money at a future tourist spot which essentially showcases the gentrification is insulting to those we have lost in the process.)
    The number of older patients I work with whose children grew up here but moved away as soon as they could is, at a guess, 70 or so percent. It really is disheartening to look at the numbers. I believe there is a piece in this issue discussing it, so I know some folks are actually confronting it while the city continues ignoring it and a few media outlets recklessly scream “racial gerrymandering” by the state to curtain what is actually happening here.
    The numbers are there, folks. You can’t make those records up. Data is and will always be a more reliable snapshot of where we failed than a passionate, but false headline ever will.
    As a WNC native, parent of multiracial children, former local home and buisness owner, an active member of the community, a health care professional by trade and a wanna be artist by craft, this stings us all pretty hard while ya’ll continue to gloss over the fact that both the city and county should have been more responsible to our community by practicing sensible, sustainable growth. Instead we have the festering mess we’ve creates over the last few decades. The people and the spirit of Asheville are suffering while leadership continues to make irresponsible decisions and fail in protecting the communities who made this small city what it was and/or is.
    I think I heard this at a recent City Council meeting, but where among the BCTDA highly paid staff is there any racial diversity? Where in the Mountain X-Press staff is there racial equity? Where, other than the recently elected city council, can we see more minority representation? This is a problem. It is even more of a problem if we keep losing talented, innovated folks to other cities because they haven’t been able to make it, much less stay afloat in Asheville.
    There are serious social consequences from this kind of irresponsible growth. It should have been considered way before we got to this point, but it feels immoral to stand by and watch it continue to happen.
    We have a decent city council now; it is time for them to stand up and do the right thing by our community, not by the generic, tourist driven branding. Its time for serious oversight of public service staff before we see more Wanda Greens or Bobby Medfords behind bars after swindling our community. Its time for serious reflection if we really want to be known as the “drunkest” city at the cost of rampant addiction and substance abuse issues increasing among of our family and friends. Its beyond time to stop pretending that we are a progressive city in order to pat ourselves on our social media backs instead of seriously addressing the housing crisis and tackle our ever increasing chronic homelessness.
    Slow down, cowgirls and cowboys.
    Ya’ll killin us.
    Just stop.
    Please.

    • OzarksRazor

      *didn’t edit in time… hope the message is still received

      • Lulz

        What does diversity have to do with tourism and gentrification? For real. The whole system here is hell bent on replacing anyone that can’t afford to live here no matter the color. It’s how leftism works because they’re constantly raising the costs of living. That the cronies are simply taking it from residents and giving it to the tourist industry should make everyone mad. On top of it residents are banned from being able to make money off of it.

        Not all whites are rich. And this poor woe is me I’m black and underrepresented is getting old. TDA is exclusive. Always has been and always will be. It’s a racket. That it still operates is a failure of “progressives” who have been in control here for 20 years to get rid of it. But don’t blame them. Blame yourself. You keep voting them in.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      NO, we do NOT have a ‘decent city council’ now. DUH. We have ZERO leadership, as has been the obvious case around here for decades.

      • OzarksRazor

        We’ve had criminal leadership, for sure. Maybe it’s naïve to be hopeful about this city council changing the game, but I’d rather be hopeful than pretend we have no housing crisis that is correlative to the displacement of POC and poor folks in general.

  4. jonathan wainscott

    I watched Julie Mayfield (the City Council, non-voting member on the BCTDA’s Board of Directors) wiping tears from her face when our new City Manager, Debra Campbell, was introduced to the community. Julie could care less about the fact that there are NO African-Americans on the staff of ExploreAsheville. None. Meanwhile, our black elected officials are helping maintain the status quo with regards to our racist electoral structure of an all at-large voting system, and dutifully remaining silent about the ethnic cleansing that is being caused by the gentrification inducing hotel tax.
    Slavery is alive and well in Asheville. There are no African-Americans on the staff of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce except the janitor. White women are doing well in Asheville though. (Former) Police Chief, most of the legal department, most of the Human Resources Department, the Executive Director of the Asheville Art Museum, the Mayor, the Vice Mayor, the president of the Tourism Development authority(Stephanie Pace BROWN) oversees a staff of 26 white people and 22 of them are women, the president of the Chamber of Commerce (Kit Kramer) has 13 or so white women on her 24 person staff, the Director of the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods, Amy Kemp, is white, our NC House Rep. Susan Fisher and Senator Terry Van Duyn are white, and Wanda GREEN is WHITE but will soon be wearing ORANGE which is the new BLACK, and 4 of our 7 District Court Judges are white women.
    In the press, the Xpress only has one African-American on staff, the Citizen-Times is almost entirely white, WLOS has two black people on a 27 person staff.
    This town is as white as a Paula Deen biscuit, but hey, at least we have museum quality displays of the vibrant African-American community that used to exist. In Asheville. The Progressive Oasis of the South East!

    • Lulz

      Then stop being a white knight in regards to these women who have shown themselves to be nothing more than taking advantage of their sex to enrich themselves. What’s even funnier is that many of them got up at the metoo rally last year and protested. And instead of being laughed at for the shear lunacy of their message and the outright lies they told, people can’t wait to suck up to them. When you don’t hold women up to any standards and allow them to get away with everything because they are women, then don’t be surprised when they use what they’ve learned to get ahead.

      • jonathan wainscott

        Pointing out that this town is run by white women is holding them to account. Sorry you didn’t see the sarcasm in my comment. Just look at the coverage of the most powerful agencies and institutions in Asheville that the Xpress has been running the last week or so. The BCTDA, the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor’s office, the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods. All run by white women. Again, the City’s legal department and human resources department is mostly women. The District Court, which wields more real power over the lives of the people that come before them than any other “elected’ officials is a majority of white women. We had a white woman managing the County, a white woman running the police department, a white woman representing us in the NC House of Representatives, a white woman representing us in the NC Senate. I’ll take a guess (and would love to be wrong) that white women make up the majority of our school teachers, and on the national level, the biggest concern of white women in 2016 was to have a white female President and the white women in the DNC stole the nomination from Bernie Sanders, put up Hillary Clinton (who ran her campaign like an entitled white woman) which gave us and orange buffoon married to a gold digger.
        I’m just waiting for that fortune of empathy that white women believe they hold to materialize into prosperity for everyone, but power and money corrupt the best intentions.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off! lolol>>>> who cares ??? ‘dieversity’ lololo>>>>>

      • Lulz

        Exactly. This diversity racket is all about what they can scam out of taxes. Nothing more and nothing less.

  5. Enlightened Enigma

    I had a visitor yesterday who flatly stated upon selling his home in West Asheville recently, is securing employment elsewhere so that he can leave town. Mainly, like he said, it’s just too trashy around here…nobody cleans up … why is Asheville such a trashy city ? Intelligent people do not litter. Be intelligent. We have much ignorance in this town.

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