The following is a Letter to the Editor from Explore Asheville President & CEO Stephanie Brown, published in the Mountain Xpress.
The May 8 cover story [“Heartbreak Hotel: Nearly 8,000 Rooms and Counting — How Much Lodging Is Too Much?” Xpress] highlighted growth in lodging tax revenue that now totals $23 million. What was not highlighted is the public good and community impact provided by investing the lodging tax to attract customers to sustain local people.
Every day, I am inspired by local people who launch and live their dreams here, dreams that are possible because of tourism. They are entrepreneurs with businesses of all kinds — comedy bus tours providing work for local artists, and wedding venues keeping family farms alive; literary, wellness and neighborhood tours telling diverse stories of local history; board game cafes and chocolate factories that you wouldn’t find in just any city; zip lines and climbing centers, where we bring our families and friends; and the creative ventures of local chefs, musicians, artists and makers of all types.
The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority is a public entity that administers the lodging tax revenue with a public purpose that creates economic vitality, jobs and tax revenue. The lodging tax has built community assets with $44 million in grants awarded to 39 projects throughout Buncombe County.
People who visit Buncombe County spend $2 billion each year on restaurants, attractions, entertainment, recreation, the arts and lodging, creating jobs for 27,000 people in our community. Visitors support 19% of property tax and generate 31% of sales tax revenue that goes toward social investments and the core services needed to maintain our community.
The lodging tax has been a successful economic development strategy for Buncombe County. The increased resources to market our community for tourism have doubled visitor spending in the past 10 years — that’s an additional $1 billion in the local economy every year.
This place is incredibly special. And, it is critical to preserve, protect and grow it sustainably for the mutual benefit of residents and visitors alike. We encourage the community to get involved in the recently launched Tourism Management and Investment Plan for Community Assets as we work collectively on a long-range investment strategy to manage tourism impacts and sustain and enhance the quality of our mountain home. Learn more at ExploreAshevilleCVB.com/TMIP.
— Stephanie Brown, President and CEO Explore Asheville CVB, Asheville