The Asheville Buncombe Hotel Association has developed a proposal for changes to the laws that govern the use of the occupancy tax in Buncombe County. The Executive Director of ABHA outlined the organization’s changes in an editorial in the Asheville Citizen Times on Sunday, February 23, 2020.
The following is a statement in response to ABHA’s proposal, from Stephanie Brown, Explore Asheville President & CEO.
The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority is a public entity created for the public purpose of attracting a customer base for our local businesses, providing jobs for the people who live here, and generating tax revenue that provides for core services and community investments. The BCTD and, by extension Explore Asheville, is not a political body.
Members of the BCTDA administer the proceeds of the occupancy tax. Our job at Explore Asheville is to create and carry out the marketing and sales programs as approved by the BCTDA and to manage the Tourism Product Development Fund, also as approved by the BCTDA.
If the legislature approves the recommendations of the Asheville Buncombe Hotel Association, I personally think these changes will open up some exciting possibilities for our community that are responsive to both business and community needs.
The change in the split and expanding the use and flexibility of the Tourism Product Development Fund would provide even more funding for projects needed and valued by the community. It would be good timing for this increase in funding as we continue the Tourism Management and Investment Plan, which is focused on addressing problems associated with growth and tourism.
The TPDF is the largest source of revenue for these kinds of projects in Western North Carolina, having provided $44 million to 39 projects, including recreation facilities, cultural venues, greenways, and public infrastructure.
The expansion in its use to support expenses such as maintenance could free up monies in the city and county budgets to cover needs and services that do not fit the criteria for use of the TPDF.
The portion of the tax dedicated to marketing provides an important return on investment to the community by supporting the customer base for local business., providing jobs and generating tax revenue.
We take seriously our responsibility to enhance the economic vitality of the region, while ensuring that we manage tourism in a manner that sustains and enhances quality of life in Asheville and Buncombe County.
The change in the split would still allow us the resources to effectively continue to enhance the economic vitality of this region by promoting Asheville and Buncombe County in a way that inspires people to visit here who will spend money at local businesses, creating jobs and generating tax revenue.
On a personal note, I applaud the initiative of the Asheville Buncombe Hotel Association for recognizing and responding to community needs and leading this process.
Gary Froeba, Chair of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, has also issued a statement regarding the the Asheville Buncombe Hotel Association’s proposal.