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ASHEVILLE — Buncombe County’s hotel tax board unveiled this week a new advertising campaign encouraging visitors to let their spirits run free in Asheville while showcasing a number of local assets such as Biltmore Estate and downtown buskers.

The new ads, which are running on TV, online and other platforms, lean into Asheville’s reputation for outdoor activities, dining and music. In 60-, 30- and 15-second spots designed by Atlanta-based ad agency 360i, a man with a guitar lends his voice to tells viewers about Asheville “where things are a little more than they seem.”

“It’s called Asheville,” the man says. “It’s the sort of place where there’s always a good reason to find another reason to go exploring. You might come across a biggish house with a biggish yard. Of course there’s live music and there’s music that’s more — alive.”

Officials from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority say the ads are backed by an $11.5 million investment, a chunk of money which comes from the county’s 6% lodging occupancy tax. They are crafted to run in established markets — Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham and Atlanta, among others — as well in new markets including New York, Chicago, Birmingham, Alabama and Columbus, Ohio.

The ads are expected to generate more than 800 million impressions and are likely to be viewed in targeted markets hundreds of millions of times, representatives from 360i said during the BCTDA’s Sept. 5 annual meeting at the Omni Grove Park Inn.

“The campaign is rooted in the audience insight that people really have a lot on their to-do lists,” account director Ashley Keetle said. “They have a lot of things they need to do, but are dying for things they want to do. Asheville provides them that reprieve.”

“It is a place that sells this want.”

360i was hired by the BCTDA and Explore Asheville this year to replace New Orleans-based advertising agency Peter Mayer, which did not pursue an extension when its contract expired in December. Marla Tambellini, Explore Asheville’s vice president of marketing and deputy director, said in January that 360i offers insights into “leading-edge” thinking, having previously worked with brands such as United Airlines and Fox Sports.

They are planning to showcase the new ads — such as the 60-second ad entitled “Surprisingly Unsurprising” —  on a number of major platforms. Among the ones mentioned by officials are travel and accommodations website TripAdvisor, sports news site SBNation, streaming video platform Hulu and music apps Spotify and Pandora.

The intended effect of the ads, Keetle said, is to increase overnight hotel stays in the county in addition to boosting Asheville’s relevance by “delivering the right message in the right places.”

Under state law, the BCTDA was established to attract overnight visitors to the county, thus paying into the room tax which allows the entity to continue to market the region and pay into community tourism projects through its Tourism Product Development Fund.

Explore Asheville President and CEO Stephanie Brown said the county saw $426 million in lodging sales during the 2018-19 fiscal year, up almost 9 percent from the previous year. The same time period yielded some 2.12 million in hotel rooms sold — a 4.8% increase — and recorded more than 1 million Airbnb room nights booked, up more than 38 percent from the past year, according to Brown.

The body used its Sept. 5 meeting to recognize former BCTDA Chairman and hotelier Jim Muth, who was replaced in the former role this year by Grove Park Inn Managing Director Gary Froeba. It also paid homage to Dick Trammell, former director of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce Convention Bureau, in awarding him the William A.V. Cecil Tourism Leadership Award.

Trammell is credited for being among the local officials who sought to implement the hotel occupancy tax, which he told attendees in an emotional speech was “an economic issue” to drive visitors to spend money in local restaurants and businesses and visit attractions. The tax formally was implemented by the legislature in 1983.

“The whole thing was: this little bit of money spent properly would benefit the big picture and it did,” he said.