When my wife and I moved here in 2007, we were both so impressed with what Asheville had to offer. We still feel that way, as I do not want to sound like, “It’s Over” (Asheville has officially lost its soul). In fact, that last word, “soul,” is what we kept saying about Asheville upon moving here. The town had an earthiness — a soul.
But in more recent years, it became apparent that the developers, the hoteliers and the construction companies building these hotels all had their “eyes on the prize” here. Don’t get me wrong. Asheville really did need hotels, but how many and just as importantly, where they would be located (don’t dwarf the historical buildings people come here to see in the first place) could have been planned better.
The occupancy tax (here), once everyone learned just where the money would only go, seems to have created a vicious circle that especially benefits the building of more hotels. It’s ironic (I can think of different words here) that there are these really nice upscale hotels downtown that tourists will come and pay big bucks to stay in — and to get there, they have to traverse roads on the way into town that have potholes and nearby highways (I-26 and 240) littered with trash. When same tourists are walking about downtown, they have to also be careful where they step on certain sidewalks.
Ben Williamson’s recent Opinion article [“Rampant Tourism or True Progress? Buncombe Commissioners Must Rein in the TDA,” May 12, Xpress] really hits it on the head when he wrote, “Other cities have used their occupancy taxes to direct millions to infrastructure and social programs while still supporting vibrant tourism industries. Why can’t we?” Yes, why can’t we?
He also accurately states, “Let’s be clear: Turning off that money tap won’t signal the end of tourism here.” Indeed, it is not (and hasn’t been for quite a while now) a news flash that Asheville and the surrounding area are one of the East’s hot spots to vacation in. The secret was out long ago. So, just how many millions do we need to promote, to advertise this town?
Like Ben Williamson, I hope that the county leaders do the right thing, too. Otherwise, the soul of Asheville will keep slipping away.
— Brad Dawson