ASHEVILLE, N.C. (October 16, 2019) – Seats are still available for an upcoming event where consultants for the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) will reveal results of phase one of a yearlong process to change how monies from the Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) are used.
The Tourism Management Forum will take place on Oct. 23, at 6 p.m., at AB Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium, located at 19 Tech Dr., in Asheville. Doors open at 5:30. The event is free and open to the public, but due to limited space, pre-registration is recommended at ashevillecvb.com/event/tourism-management-forum-october-23-2019/.
TPDF, a community grant program established by state law in 2001 with an increase in the occupancy tax paid by overnight visitors to the Asheville area, is undergoing a monumental shift from an application-based process to a long-range investment strategy created with community input and in collaboration with public entities. The initiative is called the Buncombe County Tourism Management and Investment Plan to Develop Community Assets (TMIP).
“Our responsibility, as a public authority created for the public good, is to benefit the people of our community by enhancing the economic vitality of Asheville and Buncombe County. At the same time, we believe it is critical to preserve, protect and grow sustainably,” said BCTDA Chair Gary Froeba.
The objective of the Tourism Management and Investment Plan is to become more proactive and strategic in how revenue from the Tourism Product Development Fund is invested in future years, said Stephanie Brown, president and CEO of Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We want to invest this funding, within state legislative mandates, in a way that will allow Buncombe County to maintain the quality of our community for the people who live here. A great place to live is a great place to visit.”
The TMIP project, first announced in the Fall of 2018 with an expected completion date of Spring 2020, has four phases: Assessment, Discovery, Collaboration and Prioritization. As part of phase one, Buncombe County residents had the opportunity to provide input by completing an online survey or participating in one of three public workshops that took place in August, all facilitated by PGAV, the consulting firm leading the project.
At the October forum, the project team will present results of the surveys and other findings from their assessment of existing conditions, community plans, and future needs related to Buncombe County’s authentic heritage, local economy, capacity and affordability, infrastructure and capital investment, and connectivity. The format of the event also includes a panel discussion after PGAV’s presentation, moderated by Leadership Asheville Executive Director Ed Manning.
Overview of TMIP Tourism Management & Investment Plan to Develop Community Assets (TMIP)
The following is an overview of the four phases of the yearlong TMIP project:
- PHASE ONE: ASSESSMENT. In order to gain information to inform the planning process and ensure widespread engagement and feedback from across the community, the TMIP project team conducted several activities:
- An online community sentiment survey, which received more than 2,600 responses
- An online survey of visitors, which received more than 1,400 responses
- Two meetings of the Community Leadership Council, a volunteer committee of 50 civic, educational, business and nonprofit leaders whose role is to share feedback and perspectives from the broader community and serve as a sounding board throughout the process
- Three public input workshops
- More than 20 individual meetings with community stakeholder groups
The project team also conducted a market analysis to gain insight on visitor and worker movement around the county, in order to identify stress points and inform strategies to disperse visitors from crowded areas. The data collected will provide City and County officials with insights that can guide long-range capital improvements.
- PHASE TWO – DISCOVERY. Phase two, which is currently underway, will identify needs and opportunities for future projects with potential for TPDF funding. The team will conduct project review work sessions with public entities in order to gather additional information to identify collaboration opportunities and eventually lead to strategic prioritization.
- PHASE THREE – COLLABORATION. During this phase, the project team will evaluate and prioritize potential opportunities. This will include facilitating a series of meetings with public partners and stakeholders, facilitating public input, and developing tourism management and urban design strategies.
- PHASE FOUR – PRIORITIZATION. In this final phase, community needs and opportunities will be prioritized, and strategies will be created for long-term investment of TPDF funds.
As directed by state law, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority is responsible for approving grants that are proposed by the TPDF Committee. The criteria for the evaluation of projects funded by the TPDF previously approved by the BCTDA and aligned with the legislation that created the TPDF, will continue to guide investment decisions.
TMIP will not affect the other uses of occupancy tax revenue, which by law is invested in sales and marketing to promote Buncombe County as an overnight destination and support the thousands of local businesses and jobs dependent upon tourism. Any changes to the legislation require approval of the North Carolina General Assembly. Changes are also subject to the occupancy tax guidelines first adopted by the House of Representatives in 1997.
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. Since its inception in 2001, the Tourism Product Development Fund has provided grants of $44 million to 39 community projects, such as the Enka Sports Complex, Pack Square Park, Asheville Community Theater, WNC Nature Center, the Woodfin Greenway and Blueway, Asheville Museum of Science, the Wortham Center, renovation of the U.S. Cellular Center, improvements to the River Arts District, and projects that are still in the planning phase, such as the African-American Cultural and Heritage District.
Established by legislation in 1983, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) is a public authority with a public purpose that enhances the economic vitality of Buncombe County. Charged with promoting Buncombe County as a tourism destination and administering its Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF), the BCTDA invests occupancy tax revenue to attract some 3.9 million overnight visitors to Buncombe County who spend $2 billion at local businesses annually, supporting 15 percent of employment in Buncombe and generating $119.1 million in state and local tax revenues, for a total economic impact of $3.1 billion. Under the oversight of the BCTDA, the Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) executes an extensive strategic marketing and sales program that inspires visitation and group meetings/travel while showcasing and offering free marketing services to 1,200 businesses that rely on visitors.
Additional Resources: TMIP Frequently Asked Questions
Kathi Petersen, Director of Public Information & Community Relations