At its March 25 regular meeting, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority board unanimously approved a projection that occupancy tax revenue would exceed $27 million for fiscal year 2021-22 — 15% more than projected for the current fiscal year, which ends in June, and 9% more than the year before the pandemic.
It’s time to celebrate the creativity of our community’s response to the pandemic, even as we acknowledge the pain, uncertainty and loss that surely still lie ahead. Community members weigh in on the successes that fill them with pride as they look back on 2020.
During a June 24 meeting, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority board heard a presentation from marketing firm 360i about a new advertising campaign, scheduled to start in July, designed to attract a “responsible tourist audience” to the region. Ads will target visitors whose behaviors agree with “psychographic statements” about “willingness to conform.”
“Our objective is to safely and responsibly encourage travel, working hand-in-hand with our local health officials and government, as we move toward that direct invitation of visitors to our community,” said Marla Tambellini, Explore Asheville’s vice president of marketing.
“It was an extremely tough decision,” says Chow Chow board of directors president Katie Button. “We’re determined to be back better than ever next year.”
In the first weekend of March, said Explore Asheville’s Marla Tambellini, hotels throughout the county were at roughly 90% occupancy. By March 27-28, only about 15% of rooms were filled, and the average price for those accommodations was approximately half its usual rate — $80 instead of $160.
“People who visit Buncombe County spend $2 billion each year on restaurants, attractions, entertainment, recreation, the arts and lodging, creating jobs for 27,000 people in our community.”
The local hospitality industry got together for a look back at 2018 and forecast of industry conditions for 2019 on Feb. 22. Buncombe County announced it has named Diana Sierra family justice coordinator and Mike Mace general services director.
The four-phase, roughly $440,000 project is set to begin this spring and conclude in April 2020. Those funds will come from occupancy tax revenue in the Tourism Product Development Fund budget. Funding for community projects will then resume at a time yet to be determined after the planning is complete.
Local tourism operators are sensing a shift in the racial makeup of visitors to the Asheville area. Though the data don’t definitively support that conclusion — at least not yet — efforts to make Asheville a more welcoming and inclusive destination continue, as do fledgling initiatives to give minority tourism entrepreneurs a bigger piece of the industry’s pie.
“How can this law change so that maybe the city can receive a higher percentage of hotel tax toward things that matter to maintain the city’s needs or even — ha, ha — go toward affordable workforce housing?”