Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority releases full findings of 2022 Resident Perspectives on Tourism

Buncombe County and Asheville residents’ perspectives on tourism improved over the last two years, according to recent survey findings shared at the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s annual planning session on March 25. The full report is now available here and on the Research & Reports section of

“As part of the authority’s strategic priority of balancing resident and visitor needs, Buncombe County TDA and Explore Asheville has committed to gauging resident perspectives on tourism annually,” said President & CEO Vic Isley. “Knowing the importance of growing responsible, sustainable travel in our community, it’s vital to take stock in resident perceptions along the way.

“Success does create some challenges, and it’s heartening to hear residents largely agree with our strategies in destination marketing and management. Balancing quality of life for residents and quality of the visit for guests to our community is key to our long-term success.”

This year, market research firm MMGY Travel Intelligence built upon a 2019 study that surveyed Buncombe County residents about their awareness and perceptions of destination tourism and its impact on the community.

About the Survey: Several online panel companies were engaged to reach a random sample of residents of Buncombe County (Asheville and the surrounding areas). A total of 382 surveys were completed, yielding an error range of plus or minus five percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. The vast majority of respondents are full-time Buncombe County residents (96 percent); the average length of residency is 18.5 years. Among those who are employed, about half indicate that their job does not receive any benefit from tourism while a quarter (26 percent) indicate they receive a great deal of benefit from tourism.

Chris Davidson, executive vice president at MMGY Travel Intelligence, provided the following key insights from the random sample of Buncombe County residents surveyed in January and February:

Tourism’s value outweighs its challenges. While residents agree that tourism poses some challenges, they clearly believe that tourism is beneficial to the community (83 percent), and the majority (69 percent), agree that the positives outweigh the negatives.

Perceptions of tourism have improved. Compared to 2019, residents have a more positive perception of tourism.It’s quite possible that the pandemic has illuminated the importance of tourism to the local economy,” said Davidson.

  • 89 percent of residents believe visitors to the community help support the number and variety of independent businesses here, including restaurants, retail shops and entertainment opportunities.
  • 76 percent of residents cite they are proud of their community.
  • 80 percent of residents said they encourage friends and family to visit.

Residents expressed some concerns about tourism and are largely supportive of Explore Asheville’s destination marketing and management efforts to address them.

  • Residents cited a concern that growing tourism could hurt the local vibe (78 percent). Currently this seems to be more of a fear than a reality, said Davidson (just 32 percent agreed with the statement that area visitors detract from the local culture and community). In alignment with Explore Asheville’s strategic priority to promote and support Asheville’s creative spirit, nearly 9 in 10 residents indicate that sharing stories of Asheville’s creative spirit is an important initiative for managing visitors.
  • Just over half of respondents believe tourism contributes to the loss of green space and damages the environment. In alignment with Explore Asheville’s strategic priority to encourage safe and responsible travel, an overwhelming 94 percent of residents agreed that encouraging visitors to practice responsible tourism was deemed to be most important in helping to manage visitors and the community.
  • Traffic and parking problems were a common pain point among residents. However, compared to 2019, fewer residents believe that traffic and parking are truly problems. Nearly three-quarters of respondents agreed with Explore Asheville’s strategies of dispersal of visitors throughout the County and throughout the year as part of its strategic priority to deliver balanced and sustainable growth.

Residents may expect more from visitors than they do of themselves. When Buncombe County residents travel to other destinations, the large majority indicate they are intentional about supporting “local” and thus expect visitors to Buncombe County to behave the same way. Yet, the data indicate that many residents may expect more of visitors than they do of themselves when it comes to buying local and committing to sustainable activities while traveling.

Many residents may not fully understand the impact of tourism. Survey results indicated there is an opportunity to educate residents about how taxes paid by visitors are used to benefit the community through capital investment in projects that residents enjoy.

Download the full report here >>

Download high-res image of report here >>

Learn more about the Buncombe County TDA’s strategic imperatives here >>


Kathi M. Petersen, Director of Public Information