Media strategy to support and sustain the expanded air service recently announced by Asheville Regional Airport is in the works by executives at Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau in partnership with airport officials, along with plans to bolster spring and summer advertising campaigns aimed at continuing to attract visitors whose spending will enhance the economic vitality of the region.

These enhancements to Explore Asheville’s advertising plans were presented  by 360i, the agency of record for Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, at the BCTDA’s monthly meeting on Jan. 29. The requests for a $1 million investment for the supplemental campaign and $150,000 to support the nonstop flight service were approved. One hundred percent of the funding will come from the occupancy tax paid by people who visit Buncombe County and stay overnight in commercial lodging facilities.

Presenters reminded the board that the goal of this marketing is to attract people to Asheville and Buncombe County where their spending will infuse cash into the local economy. Current figures show that visitors spend $2 billion a year at local businesses – the majority of revenue captured by food and beverage, retail, attractions and entertainment – supporting 27,000 jobs and generating tax revenue that provides for core services and community investments. The total economic impact of visitor spending is $3.1 billion annually.

Enhancing the ad campaign is a proactive response to a number of realities, said Cindy Stein and Nick Smart of 360i, including:

Election year: During an election year, the marketplace is more cluttered because of political campaigns, which drive up the cost of advertising. Experts predict election spending this year will hit record levels and marketers must adjust their plans to respond and remain effective.

Room supply: The number of hotel rooms and other commercial lodging options are expected to increase by more than 800 this year. This compares to an increase of just over 400 in 2018 and 460 in 2017.

Besides the factors presented by 360i, there are other sound reasons to increase promotion to the area, said Explore Asheville President and CEO Stephanie Brown. “Every sector of our economy benefits from the influx of revenue that is created through tourism. Generating awareness of the area among visitors supports economic development efforts to recruit new businesses and jobs in other industry clusters, such as advanced manufacturing, science and technology, entrepreneurship, and healthcare.”

In addition, said Brown, “There are more than 1,300 local, tourism-related businesses in Buncombe County. These folks are counting on the promotion we do to help their businesses survive and thrive.”


ABOUT BUNCOMBE COUNTY TOURISM DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Established by legislation in 1983, the BCTDA is a public authority with a public purpose that enhances the economic vitality of Buncombe County, benefiting local residents. The BCTDA invests occupancy tax revenue to attract some 3.9 million people who stay overnight in Buncombe County lodging facilities, providing customers for local businesses. In total, the people who visit Buncombe County spend $2 billion at local businesses annually, supporting one in seven jobs in Buncombe and generating $119 million in state and local tax revenues, for a total economic impact of $3.1 billion.

Twenty-five percent of the occupancy tax paid by visitors goes to the Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF), which is administered by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. The BCTDA has provided TPDF grants totaling $44 million to 39 community projects since the fund’s inception in 2001. In addition to the African American Heritage Trail connecting historic African American communities in downtown Asheville, other TPDF-supported projects include the Enka Sports Complex, Pack Square Park, Asheville Community Theater, Asheville Art Museum, infrastructure in the River Arts District, WNC Nature Center, the Woodfin Greenway and Blueway, the Center for Craft, Asheville Museum of Science, The Wortham Center for Performing Arts, WNC Farmers Market, and renovation of the U.S. Cellular Center.

The BCTDA also oversees the Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), which executes an extensive strategic marketing and sales program that inspires visitation and group meetings/travel. The CVB also showcases and offers free marketing services to 1,300 local businesses that rely on visitors. A study conducted by marketing research firm SMARI revealed that every dollar invested in advertising by Explore Asheville generates $43 in spending at local businesses and $3 of sales tax – all within six months of the advertising campaign. The company’s research also demonstrated that when consumers recall advertising messages and then visit, their image of the area as a place to do business nearly doubles. Explore Asheville is located in renovated space in the former Allen High School, which once served as a private school for African American students.

ABOUT 360i: 360i is an award-winning agency that helps brands capitalize on change. As a highly strategic creative and media partner with a deep understanding of how people discover brands and share stories, 360i doesn’t just react to changes in the marketplace – it predicts and defines them. By bringing together some of the smartest, most curious people with expertise in data, creativity, media, strategy, search, and social, 360i helps its clients achieve their objectives and drive their business forward. In 2019, the agency was selected for Ad Age’s A-List – its ninth consecutive year in the coveted issue. In 2018, it was named Adweek’s Breakthrough Media Agency of the Year, recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, and ranked amongst the best Lead Agencies and Search Agencies by Forrester Research. In addition to Explore Asheville, 360i works with a variety of brands including HBO, MINI USA, DSW, and Mondelez. To learn more, visit

CONTACT:  Kathi M. Petersen
Director of Public Information & Community Engagement
Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau