Unlike Asheville and Buncombe County governments, which ended the practice of live remote comment after their return to in-person meetings, the BCTDA will continue to allow members of the public to call into live meetings to comment — an option that was not offered before the pandemic.
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.
“I think we’re failing our community if we don’t get that $3 million out there,” said Andrew Celwyn, a member of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority board and owner of downtown Asheville’s Herbiary retail shop, in reference to a pot of money the authority had successfully used to support tourism businesses last year.
Buncombe County logged $53 million in room sales for October, the latest month for which data is available. The figure represents a 6% increase over the $50 million in sales for the same month in 2019 — and an all-time monthly record.
While overall hotel revenue was down more than 27% year-over-year in September, the latest month for which data is available, overall vacation rental sales that month increased by about 55% year-over-year, according to Explore Asheville interim CEO Chris Cavanaugh.
Coronavirus relief is just the latest topic in an ongoing debate over whether the Tourism Development Authority, with its mission to bring ever more overnight guests to Buncombe County, is good for county residents — or just good for the hotel industry that has controlled it since its inception nearly four decades ago.
“In my opinion, there are no problems with the TDA. The problems lie elsewhere,” said Vice Chair Himanshu Karvir during the tourism authority’s Nov. 20 meeting. “The problem lies with individuals that have nothing to do with our industry and have no idea how hotels operate, how the TDA operates and what the occupancy tax does for our community.”