“Tourism dollars should be helping with the infrastructure of the city. To continue to put the burden on taxpayers living here is unfair and unsustainable.”
“The tourism fund could be used to provide paying jobs for locals to be out in the parks and forests making sure visitors practice “leave no trace”; park only where they are supposed to; do trail work; and prevent mapless tourists from getting lost in the woods.”
“The state law requiring 75% of the tax to be used for advertising is absurd.”
“I think and truly believe it is a travesty that so much of the funds from the occupancy tax are rerouted to advertising for more tourism!”
Nearly all of the members of the public who commented on the issue expressed concern over the amount of money being spent to draw more tourists to the area and asked that the funds allocated for advertising instead be spent on city infrastructure, schools and reparations for Asheville’s Black residents.
“The secret was out long ago. So, just how many millions do we need to promote, to advertise this town?”
If the vote takes place as planned, it would mark the second consecutive year in which the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved the budget immediately after the public hearing. Last year, Chair Brownie Newman noted that the board has historically allowed some time between the hearing and the vote to consider resident input.
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.
According to a presentation available before Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday, Nov. 5, 67 lodging businesses have been delinquent in reporting or remitting occupancy taxes due March through September, with an additional 29 establishments yet to report at least one month of taxes during that period.
“If these larger establishments are bemoaning their loss of income, maybe they should consider adding an alternative arrangement, like a hostel in their basement.”
“Compared to its peers, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority doesn’t do a particularly good job.”
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will hear an update on the local status of COVID-19, then consider a $250,000 appropriation to provide funding for the county’s emergency response. Of that money, $200,000 would be available to the county’s public safety efforts, while $50,000 would be allocated to human services.
“The good news — if you’re someone who wants to see the hotel tax law changed — is that all parties seem to be in agreement,” Newman told Xpress. “They want to see the law changed, but at this point, we’re not on the same page about how to change it.”
“Once in the Senate, I will push to change this so that the city and county can control this tax. We need more funding for infrastructure and services!”
In 2017, the county’s tourism board launched the Transylvania Always initiative, which has since invested thousands of occupancy tax dollars into everything from hiking trail restoration to French Broad River cleanup. “I really don’t know of anywhere else, particularly anywhere else of our small size, that is doing anything similar,” says Clark Lovelace, the TCT’s executive director.
The county’s strategic thinking on tourism, explained Director of Intergovernmental Projects Tim Love, has focused on “the circulation of tourists to our unique, eclectic and vibrant community destinations.” That mission is driving Buncombe’s current input on the Tourism Development Authority’s Tourism Management & Investment Plan.
County Manager Avril Pinder recommended no substantive changes to Buncombe’s fiscal year 2019-20 budget following a June 4 public hearing, and board members are scheduled to vote on the spending plan. The budget contains over $9.1 million in general fund capital spending, roughly $7.58 million of which will be financed through debt.
From now through the end of the year, 465 new rooms are expected to join the nearly 8,000 already operating in Buncombe County. With many more approved and under construction in 2020 and beyond, just keeping track of what is being built where and by whom is no small challenge.
“This article could have been titled, ‘Leveling the playing field in favor of HomeAway and VRBO.'”