Asheville has been a popular tourist town for many decades. Over the years, Asheville tourism has taken a turn for the worse — accommodating only the entitled to visit. With hotel prices skyrocketing, oftentimes well over $200 per night, it affords only a certain type of visitor to come, thereby eliminating the very diversity that makes Asheville unique in its visitors. Asheville should be welcoming those very same sort of people that make up our population — artisans, young people and world wanderers.
Often they cannot, and will not, spend that sort of money on accommodations and may choose to bypass Asheville altogether as a vacation option if they are priced out of the market. These tourists look to experience the community during their stay. Giving tourists another option other than hotels is a wonderful way to share our community.
Websites that act as liaisons to these tourists, and locals who wish to host them, like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, etc., offer accommodations to those who are wishing for a more home-felt experience, rather than a sterile hotel. Hotels cater to a different crowd in general [who] want a more disconnected experience.
Vacation-rental tourism supports the local mom-and-pop or out-of-the-way business locations that make Asheville truly unique. Supporting these businesses helps our community thrive. Furthermore, the money hotels earn from visitors doesn’t stay in Asheville or get spent in Asheville. Large hotels are nationwide chains, and that money leaves town. What happened to “keeping it local”?
Tourists paying less for their accommodations often have more spending money to spend at our local restaurants, cafes, breweries, etc. According to Wolfstreet.com (a business and financial website), a recent study showed Airbnb guests spent 2.3 times more money than those of hotel guests. Vacation-rental tourists ask specifically for “where the locals go.” They will likely be going to places like Waking Life café, High Five Coffee Bar or Nine Mile. Since their lodging can cost considerably less, it makes sense they can spend more. It also opens up vacations to those who could normally not afford a nice vacation out of town. Hosts of these short-term rentals love to help facilitate this.
Creating meaningful tourism creates closeness with the visitors and a connection to the community visitors would otherwise miss out on. Hotel customers often aren’t looking for this experience, and luckily, Asheville is home to a lot of hotels — with more coming! The short-term rental market caters to an entirely different clientele. Economically, a major upside is the income gained from these tourists seeking a more meaningful vacation is [that] their visits directly impact the hosts of these homes. Their dollars are spent locally. It doesn’t get any more local than that.
— Cat Smith