ASHEVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 27, 2019) – The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) approved funding for a yearlong community engagement process to better manage tourism and plan investments for the next decade, while maintaining the character and integrity of the region.
The Buncombe County Tourism Management & Investment Plan to Develop Community Assets (TMIP) is a collaborative process to bring public entities, tourism officials and the community together with data resources to develop a framework to guide the long-term investment of BCTDA’s Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF). Since its inception in 2001, the TPDF has granted $44 million to 39 projects, including sports fields, theaters, parks and greenways.
“We want to build on BCTDA’s successful track record of developing community improvement projects that are enjoyed by our residents as well as visitors,” said Explore Asheville President and CEO Stephanie Brown. “This process is aimed at understanding the community’s capital needs, the impacts of tourism and local government project timelines to determine a set of strategic priorities and a plan for occupancy tax dedicated to capital projects.”
Led by a steering committee with additional leadership from a community council, the process will include extensive market research and a public forum that will bring more voices to the table. PGAV Inc. will guide the effort. The firm has supported more than 200 municipalities around the world in urban planning efforts focused on aligning quality of life and tourism activity.
A market analysis will deliver intelligence on visitor and worker movement around the destination to help illuminate stress points and inform strategies to disperse visitors from crowded areas. The new data will provide city and county officials with insights that can guide long-range capital improvements.
The effort is being funded entirely by occupancy tax revenue, through the TPDF, paid for by overnight visitors to Buncombe County.
“Tourism is a powerful economic engine that supports the sustainability of local businesses. One in every seven people in Buncombe County holds a job supported by tourism – that’s more than 27,000 people,” Brown added. “Thoughtful growth through community collaboration can help reduce visitor impacts and create sustainable improvements for the long term.”
“At the end of this process, we will have a blueprint for deploying TPDF grants that can work in tandem with local government on a big picture vision to benefit the community,” noted Jim Muth, BCTDA chair. “This continues the path of using the TPDF to work smarter toward making Buncombe County a better place to live, work and visit.”
About the TPDF
In 2001, the North Carolina General Assembly ratified a bill that dedicated an additional one percent to the three percent Buncombe County occupancy tax and created a Tourism Product Development Fund. This addition generates a dedicated source of funding that helps build community assets while also generating incremental overnight stays in paid lodging. The total occupancy tax was raised to six percent in 2015 with one quarter of the funds dedicated to tourism product development. Of the $44 million in grants that have been awarded since the TPDF’s inception, $22 million has gone directly to City of Asheville owned assets for projects such as the renovation of the U.S. Cellular Center, enhancements at the Western North Carolina Nature Center and improvements to the River Arts District.
Established by legislation in 1983, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) is the public entity charged with marketing Buncombe County as a tourism destination and administering its Tourism Product Development Fund. Explore Asheville works under the oversight of BCTDA to execute an extensive strategic marketing and sales program that inspires visitation and group meetings/travel while showcasing and offering free marketing services to 1,200 local business that depend on the patronage of out-of-town visitors.
The 3.9 million overnight guests that the Asheville area welcomes each year provide a customer base that assists in the sustainability of businesses in the community and contributes to local and state tax revenues, as well as the Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) administered by Explore Asheville.
To see who is counting on tourism in Buncombe County, visit ExploreAshevilleCVB.com/Tourism-Builds-Community.