With an increasing number of overnight visitors to the area, the tourism industry collectively understood that they must begin to address the need for better directional signage. In 2006, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) took a proactive approach to begin the development of a much-needed wayfinding program in the Asheville area. Following a series of community charrettes, the Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau, on behalf of the BCTDA, organized a group of stakeholders representing Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, the Asheville Downtown Association, the NC Department of Transportation, Asheville Regional Airport, and the Towns of Black Mountain, Weaverville, and Woodfin.

The program aims to facilitate wayfinding for visitors and residents throughout the Asheville area and strengthen awareness of the region’s history and character. The program aligns with the Asheville area destination brand, which invites visitors to have a personal experience each time they visit. Objectives include:

  • Increase overnight room stays
  • Increase economic impact by guiding visitors throughout the County
  • Encourage returning visitors by increasing awareness of the depth of the destination
  • Reflect and expand the Asheville area destination brand
  • Enhance visitor satisfaction

Street-level vitality, legibility, safety, maintenance, and replacement costs were all major concerns in creating the wayfinding system.  Also included in the Asheville-area program was a plan for removing existing signage that is redundant or confusing.  The program considers a variety of signage needs within Buncombe County:

  • Pedestrian and vehicular directional information and wayfinding signage
  • Gateways and district identification
  • Information kiosks and maps
  • Attraction and historic site signage
  • Parking identification and trailblazers

The BCTDA, through its Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF), funded the entirety of the capital costs for the project and continues to invest in all maintenance and physical changes to the Wayfinding System to this day.  Initial fabrication and installation costs totaled $1.5 million.

The Asheville Area Wayfinding Program has several unique design aspects. Finials that adorn each sign were created by local artists, making the signs a piece of public art. The back of each vehicular sign features quotes from literary works by Western North Carolina authors. Additionally, each information kiosk includes an interpretation panel, highlighting, through story and images, the history, culture, and hidden gems and attractions in the area. The stories invite visitors to explore the region to create an authentic experience, enhancing and extending their stay and leading to repeat visits.

Review the pages listed below to learn more about the Asheville Area Wayfinding Program:

Please direct questions to Penelope Whitman, Destination Development Manager, at pwhitman@ExploreAsheville.com.