Letter: Hotels, businesses must examine how they treat local workers

Graphic by Lori Deaton

At its Nov. 21 public meeting, board members of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority responded to criticisms of how the BCTDA funnels millions of dollars from the occupancy tax into advertising [“On the Defensive: TDA Board Members React to Criticism,” Nov. 27, Xpress]. They compared this negative criticism to a “slow beating” and said they did not get enough credit for all the positive effects of tourism, citing the same statistics that have been trotted out by the BCTDA at every opportunity.

I ask these same hoteliers and board members to take a look at how much they pay people working at the hotels and businesses they own and manage. Are low wages themselves not “slow beatings”? When they pat themselves on the back for the higher property values the TDA purports to create, do they also imagine what it is like for their own workers to try to afford these higher prices resulting from the tourism boom and from “elite empty nesters” they have specifically targeted coming to Asheville and driving up housing prices? Who sees those tourism dollars?

We do not need tens of millions of dollars of advertising to make Asheville attractive. We do, however, need to take a good, hard look at an outdated state law and ask our county commissioners to refuse to collect the occupancy tax until this law (put in place in 1983) is restructured or repealed to give our communities control of the resources we desperately need.

If hoteliers and small-business owners want to show they care about the future of our city, they can raise wages above a living wage, provide health care for employees and offer paid time off for all workers. The people of Asheville have had enough of being exploited, and it is time to abolish the Buncombe County TDA.

— Camille McCarthy
WNC Green Party co-chair


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10 thoughts on “Letter: Hotels, businesses must examine how they treat local workers

  1. TDA is corrupt and must be stopped

    I hope the county commissioners and all those running for county seats are paying attention. The tide is changing. The TDA’s time is coming to an end. Repeal the tax and replace it with an annual occupancy license based on rooms or beds. Boom – all the revenue can no go back into supporting the infrastructure that supports the county and city (that tourists use). If the TDA and the hoteliers believe what they are doing is so important, they can raise their prices 5% and continue to support the TDA out of their bottom line.

    • Lulz

      That only works if property taxes on residents ho down. My guess is that they take the tourism money and use it as a slush fund. Continue to raise property taxes and complain that there’s no enough.

  2. bsummers

    None of this will happen without changing the state law. That means that this issue has to be front and center in the NC House and Senate races.

    • TDA is corrupt and must be stopped

      Not true. The County Commissioners can repeal the occupancy tax for Buncombe County. Trying to make a significant change to the state law will be extremely difficult at best. Scrap the tax. Replace it with a special permit or license- abolish the TDA and get the revenue without having to address the state law.

  3. Lulz

    Knowing that the commission could rescind the tax at anytime, the conclusion is that they are also for low wages, mistreatment and abuse of workers, illegal immigration to make up for it. Add to that gross mismanagement of tax dollars concentrated in the pocket of the tourism industry, the developers and construction industry, and the banking industry. All the issues that many past and present, who have been elected to the board, have claimed to be against.

  4. Mike R.

    Look folks, the underlying agenda here is not tourism, per se. It is attracting people to move here and live. While tourism does help the local economy, the larger purpose is growth. Besides the TDA, if you have been observant, NCDOT is spending a boatload of money on road work in western NC. Sometimes roads the locals don’t even want or need….yet. The Equistrian Center, another state boondoggle to attract and retain money into the state; primarily from Florida.

    It appears to me that both Buncombe County and Asheville have been pretty poor economically over the years. Still seems that way; particularly in Asheville because the city is blocked from annexing into the County; thus a low tax base.

    I don’t think increased population is necessarily bad, but I do think the density of zoning in the county needs to be seriously reconsidered and changed and Asheville needs to quit these monstrous high density projects and go for somethings more modest.

    Regarding wages of tourist industry employees and hospitality……this is not an Asheville issue. This is what has happened to the US economy. I can explain it for anyone interested but it would take another post of its own.

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