Explore Asheville’s Sustainability Journey
Operationally, Explore Asheville’s sustainability journey began in 2021 with the adoption of our strategic imperative, Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel, which includes engaging residents and visitors with shared values to care for and respect natural, cultural and human resources vital in delivering quality guest experiences. It also includes a topline objective to encourage partners to embrace sustainable and responsible tourism practices.
Explore Asheville is taking small but meaningful measures on our own sustainability journey. While we’ve always endeavored to support our local businesses, we’re taking small intentional steps internally – for example, we are committed to locally-sourced coffee in our breakroom and order only from locally-owned businesses for catering partner events and board meetings.
Explore Asheville’s other actions include:
- Leave No Trace Campaign: Explore Asheville is partnering with Visit NC, the North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics on a statewide campaign to encourage, educate and inspire travelers to recreate responsibly.
- Fundraising through Pledge for the Wild: Asheville was the first destination on the East coast to join other mountain locations in the U.S. in signing onto this platform that not only educates visitors about responsible tourism in wild places but provides a direct channel for supporting those places financially. The recipient of donations in Asheville through Pledge for the Wild is the nonprofit Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.
- Sustainability Messaging: The Explore Asheville marketing team continues its work to shape persuasive and inspiring messages that communicate Asheville’s values related to safe and responsible travel.
- Attracting Like-Minded Brands: The Explore Asheville group sales team has expanded its strategy to focus on attracting Certified B-Corporations and other like-minded brands to Asheville, including groups from the outdoor industry. In alignment with local economic developers and Asheville’s reputation as “Climate City” – a nod to the growing sector of businesses focused on solutions for climate change anchored by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information downtown – the sales team is also targeting climate technology companies.
- Encouraging Corporate Social Responsibility: The sales team is also actively encouraging event planners for conferences, retreats and business meetings to add community service projects to their Asheville agendas – and even engaging planners of weddings, reunions and social gatherings to do the same.
- Product Development: Explore Asheville is funded by revenue from an occupancy tax paid by overnight visitors. As legislated by the state, a portion of that revenue is dedicated to grants for community capital projects that will increase visitation. Even before adopting the Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel strategic pillar, the organization supported some of the area’s most beloved outdoor spaces including $7.125 million toward a new greenway and bikeway running along two miles of the iconic French Broad River (the third-oldest river in the world according to geologists), complete with sidewalks, public art, and landscaping.
- Stakeholder Events: As an example, an Explore Asheville webinar featured a panel of tourism partners who shared ways they are embracing sustainability in their businesses – everything from adding a “voluntourism” component to sourcing locally for product packaging to, yes, changing light bulbs. A subsequent Sustainability Resource Fair held at the home of the 6th largest solar array among craft breweries in the U.S. helped connect tourism partners with local environmental nonprofits.
- Sustainability Messaging: Global Sustainable Travel Council: Explore Asheville is a member of GSTC, which encourages destinations pursuing sustainability practices in development and management of tourism to join as GSTC members and apply the GSTC Destination Criteria (which eventually can lead to achieving certification by a GSTC-Accredited Certification Body) and support local business to apply the GSTC Industry Criteria. Through our membership, we are also able to pass along sustainability opportunities and information to partners.
- Sustainability Intern: Explore Asheville is hosting a graduate school intern in 2022 to conduct a hotel sustainability audit and research various sustainability/green hotel accreditation programs and the locations of electric vehicle charging stations through the County.
We will continue to expand our sustainability practices. Watch for more information!