Sally Kestin’s “VIP Treatment: Tourism Tax Money Buys Massages, $250 Shirts and Dinners Costing Thousands” from Asheville Watchdog [Nov. 15] is some of the best investigative reporting that Xpress has ever published.
With several decades of complex sales in my rearview mirror, I appreciate that a well-executed marketing campaign for just about anything will create interest and drive revenue. But there is a difference between effectiveness and excessiveness, and some of the more egregious examples of blatantly out-of-control spending by the Tourism Development Authority described in the report are the very definition of gross excess.
So I have a suggestion for the TDA. Want to use your dollars really effectively to revitalize tourism in Asheville? Instead of flying cheese around the country or ordering $250 denim shirts for yourselves, give those urgently needed funds to Homeward Bound, ABCCM, Helpmate, BeLoved Asheville, Trinity Place and the many other worthy organizations that are getting the unhoused, the unfortunate and victims of domestic violence off our streets, out of downtown doorways and into safe housing for the day, for the night or forever. Shelter them; feed them; give them counseling; give them the resources and opportunity to be productive members of society.
As any downtown business owner will attest, the upsurge over the past several years in street dwellers, panhandlers and worse has driven tourists away, despite all your branded magnets and engraved tumblers. Put your money where it’s needed: Give it to local organizations that do not have your resources that are already helping the desperate to get on their feet and off the streets; reduce the unhoused and underserved population; make a difference in the world; make Asheville a better place to visit; and your tourists will come.
— Michael Breck