Together, Asheville and Buncombe County’s tourism community navigated a dramatic recovery coming through some of the most challenging and unprecedented times in recent history.
» Visitors spent $2.6 billion in 2021, supporting a wide variety of locally owned businesses, from beloved restaurants and breweries to art galleries, shops, and tour providers. With the popularity of outdoor and drive destinations, Buncombe County surpassed Wake County in visitor spending, ranking only second in the state behind Mecklenburg County where visitors spent $4.1 billion.
» That spending supported $915 million in workforce income for area residents and 27,000 total jobs, making up 14% of all jobs in Buncombe County. In fact, tourism is one of only two sectors in our region that pays higher wages than the North Carolina average.
While we at Explore Asheville and the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority serve as the official destination marketing and management organization for the region, we also have a responsibility to maintain our quality of life. To better understand all of our needs and priorities, we embarked on hundreds of listening sessions with community members and analyzed the strategic priorities of many community organizations. From those engagements, we crafted four strategic imperatives that align our efforts with broader community goals:
» Delivering balanced recovery and sustainable growth;
» Encouraging safe and responsible travel;
» Engaging and inviting more diverse audiences, and
» Promoting and supporting Asheville’s creative spirit.
With a successful visitor economy, we must also recognize some of the challenges we face together. These strategic priorities not only help guide what we do, but how we go about doing this important work for a community in which we all live, work, play, pray, and learn. This report marks the results of that recovery and the first full year on this collective journey. We hope you will spend some time reviewing our progress. Please share ideas of how we can create more opportunities for more to win through our efforts.