Letter: Will I be welcome in Asheville?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Dear Asheville,

I’m planning on visiting your town [in July]. Every time I visit somewhere new, I like to follow their quirky, local newspaper for a few months to get a feel for the place. Mountain Xpress appears to give me that local vibe.

I’m just curious about one thing: Am I welcome in your town? Almost daily, I see another jab at “the tourists.” We seem to be the bane of your existence.

You have a strong history of tourism, thanks to your beautiful hills and a new train system in the 1880s. Your town has really thrived on tourism since the 1930s, thanks to the Biltmore opening its doors. At the time, you welcomed tourism to help pull you out of the Great Depression and the debts you had amassed. The outpouring of vitriol for tourism today seems to be quite fresh in your minds. Why all the hate now?

I get it. I’m coming to visit from Vermont. We will do anything to please our tourists. Free maple syrup and Ben & Jerry’s for all! We don’t have to put up with just any tourists, but French Canadian and Bostonian ones. Shiver.

The bottom line is: Your town seems great. It’s a little progressive beacon in the bright red South. I escaped north from West Virginia but miss those hills all the time (don’t tell anyone). I was really hoping to feel like I had found a second home among the hills.

Will I be welcome in your town? Will you offer up some of that famous Southern hospitality or will it be that all-too-familiar Southern hostility?


— Adrienne Fortune
Montpelier, Vt.


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25 thoughts on “Letter: Will I be welcome in Asheville?

  1. boatrocker

    What to Expect from Asheville 101:

    From your obvious dig at French Canadians and Bostonians, I think you just answered your own question. Provincialism much? The Southern Appalachians excels at that too.

    How about show up, lose the attitude, don’t be a jerk to locals here but know your stronger VT $ allows you to live the high life unlike our local wages which are not commiserate with our sky high rents (for NC).
    Most importantly, don’t stiff us for tips for acting a stereotypical dour tightwad New Englander.

    Also, don’t expect free samples of food from snooty hipster-run eateries. They tend to be overpriced.
    The Mtn X is recently but a puppet for tourism: breweries, hotels, B n Bs, artisan eateries. Not a hard hitting bastion of journalistic integrity like the Washington Post. Different tools for different jobs.

    The same way a food n eats/tourist magazine in VT won’t tell tourists that you might have to wear the onse-y long johns with the butt flap under your clothes and 2 pairs of socks for cold winters just to walk your dog in the morning (if the boot were on the other foot).

    Come to think of it, avoid downtown altogether and just hang in the great outdoors here.
    Hiking, backpacking biking, whitewater boating , a hot air balloon ride, jumping in a mountain stream on a hot day, you get the idea.

    Worst case- nobody likes you? Just tell folks you’re Canadian as a joke and all the MAGA hat types will
    froth at the mouth about ‘liebtards’, democrakkks and socialism. You’ve most likely seen some posts from the InfoWars-type sandbox dwellers here too. It does take all kinds.

    • Bright

      “The Mtn X is recently but a puppet for tourism: breweries, hotels, B n Bs, artisan eateries. Not a hard hitting bastion of journalistic integrity like the Washington Post. Different tools for different jobs.” Beautiful…love the accuracy of your observations!

  2. Donttreadonme

    “The bottom line is: Your town seems great. It’s a little progressive beacon in the bright red South”

    You will be fine. If you were conservative/libertarian…. different story. You would be called a Nazi/fascist.

  3. Lulz

    LOL please come stay in my AirBNB to help offset the taxes I’m paying so you can use the roads. Oh that’s right, you can’t because it’s illegal here. But for some odd reason hotels keep popping up. I wonder, do those extra fees you pay to the hotels go to offset the strain you put on the infrastructure? Silly me, they go into the pockets of a bunch of insiders and LOL, I and many others get stuck with the bill.

    LOL they give away maple syrup in Vermont. In Asheville, that syrup cost taxpayers 10,000 bucks a pint.

  4. Big Al

    Answer: Yes, if:
    A) You bring lots of money to spend.
    B) You promise to leave when you run out of money.

      • Big Al

        Tourists are not the problem, they go back to where they came from when the money runs out.

        Not so the artsy hipster crowd with their worthless MFAs, who move here for “the vibe”, discover that beer and bands cost lots of money, and that the only residence that their three jobs busing tables and tending bar affords them is one room in a single-wide trailer in Leicester or Old Fort.

        BUT realizing this, instead of going back to where they came from, they STILL stay and form a permanent political class that constantly whines for living wages and affordable housing from a city council that cares only about building more hotels and breweries.

        So, yeah, welcome, tourists! Everybody else stay away, and a bunch of you need to move back out, for your own good as well as Asheville’s.

        • SpareChange

          Understood the “tongue in cheek” nature of the first comment — but now ya’ done gone and ruined it by mansplaining it.

  5. jason

    lets put things in perspective…… Asheville is a cheap whore…. all smiles during the act, but will complain to her friends about work….
    Asheville would be a welfare state without tourist. please come! these idiots who bitch about tourists…. where once tourists who would be lost without you!

  6. dyfed

    Almost inevitably, those who are most hostile to tourists are service workers who are recent immigrants themselves and have a misplaced sense of ownership over Asheville and WNC in general.

    Don’t worry about it. Natives and business owners—those with skin in the local game—aren’t represented in the complaints. You’ll have a great time.

    • Lulz

      LOL no. What you’re seeing is people who are left dealing with the effects of tourism on the area. And even worse, see absolutely no financial gain from it. It’s easy for council to waltz down to Raleigh for water but they sure as hell like staying home when it concerns the TDA. And of course blame someone else when concerns about the money the TDA gets from tourism isn’t spent to offset the impact of the industry. Here you have millions made and no one contributing to pay for costs of it except mainly the people who own homes. That’s a crock of BS.

      No one hates the tourist per se. But the industry is ripe with corruption, back room dealings, and scams that affect the area as a whole. On top of the low wages that have to be subsidized by the taxpayers in many cases. So if tourism itself needs handouts and special treatment to thrive, who needs it?

    • boatrocker

      While I’m willing to guess the LTE writer would have a good time here, as for the rest of your comment
      I’d reply ‘don’t be too sure about that’. Plenty of us have skin in the game.

  7. Tsalagi Sister

    It’s a very insular, elitist, bigoted town.
    If you have money, are white and buy a second home, the ruling class will love you.
    The locals will shun you.
    If you’re not white, expect disrespect.
    Big time liberal hypocrisy here and far right lunatics.

  8. William Burnette

    Sorry, the sincerity of your letter gets lost in comments like; I miss the mountains but you are from Vermont – no mountains there? For the record, do you have a source for your comment that tourist are treated unfairly or are you intent on stirring the pot for negative responses like the one about being white and having a second home. Your attempt to label Asheville a progressive beacon in the bright red south further defines the real reason for your letter. Stay home and eat all the Ben & Jerry’s you like. It’s Blue Bell for us.

    • hendobro

      I’m pretty local, and even if I don’t like every single thing about the tone, I get some of the writer’s point(s). Like when I see folks who moved here 10 years ago looking down their noses at those who moved here last week as “Johnny Come Latelies”. And I have read plenty online (message boards, comment threads like this one, etc) where Asheville “natives” grouse about many aspects in which the tourists are ruining “their” town. Looks like the letter’s author has seen that too. The Biltmore Companies employ approximately 2,700 people. I’ll deal with the BS surrounding tourism for the jobs that tourism creates. Apple is not building a second headquarters here anytime soon. So let’s keep the Biltmore, huh? Those jobs generated by out-of-town dollars are quite appreciated. By me, at least. And my work is probably less affected by tourism than anyone who might read this. I’m down the road from ya’ll, and in the Summer, everyone downtown here is wandering around with a shopping bag in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other. But when it takes me an hour to sit down at my favorite restaurant on a Tuesday night instead of the 5 minutes it would take in February because of all the out-of-town folk, the snowbirds, and the halfbacks…well, I’ll check my gratitude list. Because the owner is a cool guy, and I’m happy to stand in line behind those whom some may call a plague or a pox, but who also pay the bills at his restaurant, and leave their dollars all over my town. And our region. But that’s just me. I tend not to get angry over all that much that is under a 5 or so on the emotional pain scale. And if anything gets to be too unbearable, it’s not that far to DuPont or Pisgah or somewhere else with no Kilwin’s.

  9. Bright

    If you are of the beautiful, liberal northern mentality, stay away. Don’t support the political greed machine here in A’ville. This is not the town you are led to believe it is, and your money will hurt more people and help the rich get richer. Participate by stepping away from the lack of morality in the greed machine. Use your intellect to act with future generations in mind. Hit em where it hurts. Decency begins with you. Good luck.

    • boatrocker

      By ‘hit em where it hurts’ I assume you refer to boycotting?
      Helllllll yeah. Too many folks and posters here whining about taxes
      and wanting the quick buck and not enough in it for the long game.

  10. Peter Robbins

    Stay at a bed and breakfast in Madison County, Ms. Fortune. I give you my personal guarantee that everyone will treat you right, and you’ll be in driving distance of Asheville in the unlikely event you still feel obliged to go there.

  11. xNewsMan

    From the responses posted here, I can say the answer is NO “You are not welcome here” especially if you can afford to visit.

  12. Emily

    We have a great little town here in the NC mountains, and I for one am happy to show it off to anyone who comes! We pride ourselves on diversity – and I think that must include visitors and locals alike. I hope you have an enjoyable stay. Lots to see and do!!

    • Bright

      Show “our great little town” off all you wish, but don’t use the rest of us to do it.

  13. John

    By now you have learned that one thing many Ashevillians love to do is share their opinion – and it’s much easier to be negative than positive. As a former 15 year resident of West Virginia (my wife is a native) and someone who lived in New England and upstate New York as well – I do hope you’ll come down and enjoy this great area. July is a busy time for tourism in this area (second only to October as we are the “New England of the South” during leaf season) so tourists are definitely more obvious, especially in the downtown on weekends. But come enjoy our beautiful mountains and rivers – the terrific arts and music scene – our amazing restaurants – and an area where the vast majority of people are super friendly and happy to have you visit. Despite the tone of several response, Southern Hospitality is alive and well in our area. Enjoy your visit.

  14. Steve

    Visit Knoxville instead. We have more free parking downtown, lots of restaurants, shoppees and buskers on Market Square, it’s less crowded, and you’re closer to Dollywood and Nashville.

    • Steve

      And, apparently, we’re friendlier to tourists, too! And even friendly to hipsters.

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