Letter: Spend occupancy taxes on healing tourism’s impacts

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The money should be spent on healing the impacts of tourism on the natural world and habitats in this region, not on advertising to draw more people here. Our lovely, magical outdoor spaces are horribly overrun, abused and trashed. Now locals are losing access to our treasured wild spaces such as Purchase Knob and Max Patch.

We need paid rangers, monitors and trail maintainers. Places like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Shining Rock, waterfalls and others in the Pisgah National Forest are eroded, jampacked and overused. The Pisgah Forest Service, and the Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway national parks are understaffed, underfunded and underresourced, and volunteers are relied on to do so much to pick up the slack.

The tourism fund could be used to provide paying jobs for locals to be out in the parks and forests making sure visitors practice “leave no trace”; park only where they are supposed to; do trail work; and prevent mapless tourists from getting lost in the woods.

— Tamera Trexler
Asheville

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9 thoughts on “Letter: Spend occupancy taxes on healing tourism’s impacts

  1. Taxpayer

    Yes, everyone that mentions TDA says similar things. The problem is it can ONLY be changed at the state level, not by anyone in Asheville or Buncombe County, and the state doesn’t appear inclined to approve of any change taking $$ from marketing and advertising. The only recourse is for Buncombe County to rescind the occupancy tax as soon as that’s possible (2022?)

    • NFB

      The TDA can be “fixed” by Buncombe County Commission.

      Buncombe County Commission abolish the BCTDA outright (theoretically, don’t expect it to actually do that.) It could also cut the room tax, which would cut to marketing budget.

      Several years ago there was talk of increasing the room tax and have the extra money go to infrastructure and other services tourists use while here. The BCTDA insisted that this would make hotel rooms too expensive and we would lose tourists to Charleston, Savannah, Myrtle Beach, Gatlinburg, etc. as if any of those places have the Biltmore House and downtown Asheville, and as if people base their vacations on the price of hotel rooms rather than look for the hotel rooms that fir their budget.

      Not very long at all after that the BCTDA went into panic mode over too many hotels being built and asked County Commission to raise the room tax from 4% to 6% for more marketing money. Suddenly it wasn’t going to make hotels rooms too expensive.

      https://mountainx.com/news/buncombe-commissioners-approve-hotel-tax-increase/

      So, what BCC could do is vote to resend that increase as a warning shot to the TDA to quite showing such open contempt for locals and start cooperating in addressing their concerns about such a massive marketing budget or get ready for a vote to put and end to their fund altogether.

      So it can be solved on a local level, just in a different way.

      • Taxpayer

        As I said, Buncombe County can recind the tax. They’ve missed the window for the upcoming year, however.

        • luther blissett

          Yeah, they had their chance in June, put a discussion item on the agenda, then pulled it off the agenda to be discussed “at a later date.” They bravely, bravely ran away from it.

          I don’t think there’s any mechanism in the controlling law for the county to abolish the TDA. That would have to be done in Raleigh. If it were to zero out the occupancy tax (which would only come into effect July 1, 2022) then the TDA would still have whatever’s in the bank with the mandate to spend 75% of it on marketing. It could probably keep going for a year on that money. That said, if the county were to pass a resolution, it might finally get the attention of the TDA board. For the moment, the only way to take on the TDA over the coming year will be through direct action.

          Which reminds me: the July TDA meeting is on Wednesday, so we’ll get to see how much of the $7.8 million that remained from the FY21 marketing budget was spent in June.

          • luther blissett

            “we’ll get to see how much of the $7.8 million that remained from the FY21 marketing budget was spent in June.”

            The answer? $5.5 million. The TDA budgeted $11.3 million for marketing in FY21, spent $3.5 million over the first 11 months of the fiscal year, then spent $5.5 million in the final month.

            We knew it was coming, and it’s obvious why it was done: to empty out the coffers in an attempt to justify the FY22 marketing budget. Maybe some of it is paying up front for things later in the year. Doesn’t really matter. Somebody made a decision to spend $5.5 million in one month.

            $5.5 million would fund APD for two months. It’s not far short of Woodfin’s entire FY22 budget.

  2. MV

    Hopefully we’ll get into another full lockdown. Tourism will tank. Hotels will sit empty. And local officials will see the wisdom of investing in infrastructure and taking care of people who actually live here and contribute to our community. How many wake-up calls do grubby politicians need?

    • NFB

      Your scenario would put a lot of people out of work — you know, people who actually live here — put them at risk of eviction, etc. There are tons of things wrong with the TDA but your “solution” is not the answer.

        • NFB

          And what are you willing to lose for the “greater good?”

          Your job? Your housing? Your medical care? Your groceries?

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