Letter: Visitors, Asheville welcomes (and depends on) you

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Thanks to Adrienne Fortune from Vermont for your letter [“Will I Be Welcome in Asheville?” July 11, Xpress] and curiosity about visiting our beautiful, free-spirited city. Asheville is indeed an accepting and welcoming place that has earned a reputation as one of America’s best places to visit and live.

More than 25,000 jobs in our community rely on visitors like you. One thousand local businesses offer unique visitor experiences every day, including attractions, recreation, tours, restaurants, farms, art, theaters, shops, breweries, music and more. And the businesses and experiences that make Asheville a special place to visit are loved by locals, too.

Asheville absolutely depends on and appreciates its guests. People have been visiting these mountains for more than 100 years. Since the inception of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority 35 years ago, visitor spending has increased from less than $200 million to more than $2 billion every year, generating more than $203 million in tax revenue.

It wasn’t long ago that businesses closed during the winter season. Tourism promotion has built a national reputation that has helped attract new investment, created jobs of all kinds and offered a year-round path to success for our cherished small businesses. Buncombe County now has the lowest unemployment rate in North Carolina.

Your choice to visit Asheville provides greenways, sports facilities, theater renovations, new museums and other infrastructure improvements. These community assets — enjoyed by both locals and visitors — are funded by 25 percent of hotel taxes through the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s grant program. Since 2001, $34.5 million has been invested in 33 community projects — including $22 million to city of Asheville-owned projects.

Asheville faces challenges common to successful places — increasing housing prices, infrastructure and public-service needs, workforce development issues, etc. The passionate responses of our community on these issues illustrate the growing pains faced by Asheville and many other destinations that are growing. Truth is, they are important to all of us who live and work here and care deeply about our mountain home.

I hope you will visit our vibrant and welcoming city. We promise you a memorable and enriching experience. When you visit a honey-tasting shop, local record store or family farm, know that your support helps us to thrive and live our passions here in Asheville.

— Stephanie Pace Brown
Explore Asheville President and CEO
Asheville

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13 thoughts on “Letter: Visitors, Asheville welcomes (and depends on) you

  1. Not bright, no worries

    It seems the letter’s author is riding the gravy train. Not a local, only a transplant that adds nothing to the area other than reaping the profits of natural splendor and others past achievements. Patting one’s own back in public is kind of sad.

    • Lulz

      Yep. Transplants that “woke” downtown Asheville up from its boarded up days, that needed massive tax subsidies and still do because they pay their employees jack, take all the profits and expect others to finance it need it to continue. But does the town where the one’s who work here can’t afford to live here do? No, of course not. For such a so called liberal town, they sure do seem to neglect the low wage labor. And of course lay blame at others feet. Most unfortunate for them though is people are waking up. They won’t even take 15 dollar an hour jobs because in reality, it’s minimum wage. In this town, one needs at least 20 an hour to even somewhat make it. And that’s even pushing it. Especially as the greedy rake in millions. And not just hotels, but construction, retail, the list goes on.

      • Curious

        ” . . .needed massive tax subsidies and still do . . .”
        I’m curious as to what business you are referring to that needed and still need massive tax subsidies and only offer low wage jobs. Could you provide some data with a list of these business and the amount of their on-going tax subsidies? This is a serious question about a serious charge. As a tax payer, I too am interested in how my tax dollars being used. Please provide data, not just accusations.

      • Enlightened Enigma

        ‘for such a liberal town, they sure do seem to neglect the low wage labor’ say whut? huh? are you kidding? the poor and low wage folks in AVL could not have picked a juicier spot to be poor with more handouts and giveaways than any other place, which is why all the ‘homeless’ travelers come here and live for free for most of the year , until they go to Florida for the winter…one can live for free in AVL…just come and take.

  2. Curious

    Ms. Brown makes a good case for the value of the tourist economy. I am one fifty-year resident who can remember when the Grove Park Inn closed during the winter. Most of us can remember when downtown was mostly shuttered and mostly deserted in the evenings. Asheville’s renaissance as a tourist destination (always one of its defining features, since the late 19th century) is well-documented. Ms. Brown would help her case if she could document specifically how that $34 million has been spent on 33 projects, some “city-owned.” Could she, or the editors, give us a list?

    • Bright

      Yep…too bad useful column space is devoted to one person who has also been duped by the advertisers, of which she is part of. See comment below. “We sell Asheville!”

  3. Stan Hawkins

    Your comments: “Asheville faces challenges common to successful places — increasing housing prices, infrastructure and public-service needs, workforce development issues, etc. The passionate responses of our community on these issues illustrate the growing pains faced by Asheville and many other destinations that are growing. Truth is, they are important to all of us who live and work here and care deeply about our mountain home.”

    Yes, Asheville needs you. In an economy that lacks diversification and other demographic issues, what else would you expect us to say? We’ve put all our eggs into one basket, so we need to feed that basket. However, the author of this piece failed to include the following “heads up:”

    https://www.areavibes.com/asheville-nc/crime/

    Do you want to visit a city with these crime statistics?

    • Curious

      It would be helpful if our commenters on this topic could drill down further on their data and provide more specifics. In the crime statistics cited, how many of these crimes are committed against tourists or in tourist-visited areas?
      As for all our eggs in the one economic basket of tourism, the statistics tell a different story. Asheville’s highest area of economic activity is Education and Health Care, at 19%. Government, Retail, and Professional and Business Services total 42%. Leisure and Hospitality come in at 15%. (Percentages are rounded.)
      https://www.ashevillechamber.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/EDC-FS-IndustryEmploy-11-16-HRUPDATE.pdf

      • Stan Hawkins

        Drilling down on crime statistics, huh? I was not aware that there is discrimination or discretion practices deployed by the perpetrators of said statistics. You are, however, welcome to refute said statistics on your time and offer any reasoning as to how to explain to potential tourists and newcomers as to why the minutia in the accuracy of the overall statistics should not matter to said prospective visitors or new residents?

        As to the economic eggs in basket; yes there are other components of our economy. Many will say that it is and was the explosion of tourism development revenue and associated taxes that have lead Asheville out of the darkest days of the 1970’s economy when many downtown buildings were boarded up. The medical and education components existed then. What is new is a bloated city and county government along with a massive tourism boom thus creating a newcomer boom. We can pretend Asheville is selling something else all the live long day.

        • luther blissett

          The AreaVibes methodology is garbage. If you haven’t worked out why, look at the results for Biltmore Forest.

          • Stan Hawkins

            Thanks; I gave it a look. Don’t see your point, care to explain?

  4. James Cassara

    Amazing how many of the same folks who rightfully decry Trump’s call to “build a wall” are so quick to build walls around Asheville.

  5. jonathan wainscott

    Dear Stephanie Pace Brown,
    Why aren’t there any…ANY!!!… people of color on your staff? (https://www.ashevillecvb.com/contact-us-2/ )?
    Oh, and look at the diversity on the BCTDA Board ( https://www.ashevillecvb.com/bctda-board/ ). Even Leah (Wong) Ashburn is registered as white a voter.
    Fortunately (for you) our Equity and Inclusion Manager is only charged with examining the hiring practices of City Staff and her equity lens can’t focus on the BCTDA.

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