[Regarding “TDA Discusses Concerns Over the Decline in Tourism,” Sept. 6, Xpress:]
The drop in tourism should not alarm anyone. Before the hoteliers and restaurants panic, tourism had an atypical spike during the COVID pandemic.
1. Now, well-heeled tourists are traveling internationally. Even locals are getting on planes, so that partly explains the uptick in the airport traffic.
2. The huge proliferation of short-term rental properties in Buncombe County also competes with hotels for bookings. The number of STRs now outnumbers the number of hotel rooms.
3. The bad press about the serious issues of vagrancy downtown is also steering tourists elsewhere. We have become known as a friendly city for the homeless, and this is a consequence. The City of Asheville needs to increase police presence in downtown and nonprofits reassess their approach. Tunnel Road has become a vagrant corridor now, and so the problem is beyond downtown.
— Chas Fitzgerald