Letter: Tourism board should use budget to educate tourists

Graphic by Lori Deaton

We are told again and again what the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority can or cannot do with its immense war chest. It seems that whenever locals (including housing advocates and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists) dare suggest that tourism, for all its economic benefits, has societal or environmental costs and disproportionately burdens our infrastructure, we’re met with a massive list of projects the TDA has helped fund to bring in more tourists. Or we’re admonished for being yokels who fell off turnip trucks and “ain’t got no clue how things is done in this here real world.” Yes, we get it. There’s big money in tourism, many who live here reap rewards, and we should expect an increase of visitors every year into perpetuity.

But the recent feeding (and attempted hugging?) of bears by visitors (which led to park closures impacting residents and guests alike) leads me to believe that the TDA (a group that takes credit for bringing 12 million guests to our region each year) should assume some responsibility for safeguarding guests, as well as impacted residents.

I believe the TDA, perhaps with the guidance of BearWise, should use some of its vast advertising budget and vaunted marketing expertise to craft and produce educational public service announcements and ancillary materials to share with hotels and short-term rental owners about the dangers and diminished experiences brought about by misunderstanding and mistreating wildlife in our region. Similar PSAs encouraging guests to limit use of single-use plastic would be welcome, too.

— Robert McGee


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5 thoughts on “Letter: Tourism board should use budget to educate tourists

  1. Bright

    Nice idea, but beware giving the “Tourism Board” any more excuses to spend our tax monies. They have misused every amount received, and there’s absolutely nothing to be shown for it. They’re liable to “hire a research expert(s) to access the problem,” and we all know where it goes after that. Then their stupidity becomes pandemic. Beware…”the Board” is extremely irresponsible with taxpayer’s money.

  2. Rick

    Let’s add some police positions to that spend. Using the funds should have an holistic strategy, not a targeted or specialized one. There is a HUGE revenue potential awaiting the city: visitors who do not obey traffic laws or pedestrian crosswalks, parking violations, littering, speeding, noise ordinance violations and open-burn bonfires at STRs, etc. Respect for resident taxpayers has evaporated.

    The funds must address both ends of tourism marketing: getting them here and ensuring they obey our laws while enjoying themselves.

  3. kw

    Absolutely agree with the writer and commenter above. I find it disgraceful that Florida tourists OD’ed at the Grove Park, impacted our resources and not a peep from our city council or TDA about how such behavior won’t be condoned.

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