The following is a guest post written by Buncombe County Commissioner Terri Wells, who was scheduled to speak during a webinar focused on Explore Asheville’s strategic pillars; specifically, “Encourage Safe & Responsible Travel.” Due to technical difficulties, Commissioner Wells was unable to participate in the discussion as planned, so she provided Explore Asheville with her ideas and insights on the topic. See more about the webinar series and the four strategic pillars here.
A life well-traveled broadens perspectives and enhances education. It is with that spirit of curiosity and open-mindedness that I encourage our community to come to the table to have an open and honest conversation about the bene?ts and challenges of tourism.
What does responsible tourism mean to me? I think of the basic concept that I grew up with: “Leave it better than you found it.” It is my hope that anyone visiting our community will be respectful of our people, our community, and our natural resources. We must ensure that there are not negative social, economic, and environmental impacts on our community, but instead that responsible tourism enhances local prosperity and a healthy quality of life for our residents.
Balance is integral to any system, and we need to consider what is an acceptable carrying capacity that our community can sustain without considerably diminishing satisfaction and causing deterioration of our physical environment. A report from the World Travel and Tourism Council notes that overwhelming this capacity can lead to a range of negative impacts including alienated local residents, degraded visitor experience, overloaded infrastructure, and damage to natural resources.
All parties from visitors to tourism industry partners must assess how they can contribute to our community and be good stewards. We need our tourism partners to think creatively and be part of the solution. Two critical areas to ensure environmental stewardship are conservation and multimodal transportation infrastructure. Conservation of our mountains, farms, and rivers impact our basic needs of clean and healthy air, food, and water. They are also an integral aspect of why travelers have chosen to visit us throughout the decades.
We have a distinct landscape that lends itself to experience-based travel opportunities coupled with a vibrant city. In order for our residents and our guests to have a quality experience, multimodal infrastructure, including an extensive greenways network, for ease of accessibility is key going forward.
We have always been an independent, creative, and welcoming community, never desiring to be like some other place. Let’s continue to be true to ourself. Uniquely Asheville.
Terri Wells is a newly elected Buncombe County Commissioner who has also served on the Buncombe County Ag Advisory Board, helping spearhead the Farm Heritage Trail and Visit NC Farms agritourism projects. Her efforts have helped preserve 20 of our local family farms and more than 2,000 acres. Commissioner Wells continues to be a strong voice for our family farms and conservation.