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Local government 101: The basics of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

Learn what the work of the BCTDA and Explore Asheville means for locals and how you can connect.


The RAD Greenway received a BCTDA grant.

Photo by Emily Chaplin

Table of Contents

Class is in session, Asheville. We’re teaching AVL GOV 101, where we break down different aspects of our local government so we can become engaged citizens who create healthier (and more effective) communities.

Since we’re nearing the holidays, when we’ll be inviting friends and family to visit, today’s lesson will discuss the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) + Explore Asheville — the work, the purpose, the opportunities, and the tax.

The history + fundamentals

Let’s start from the beginning. The BCTDA was established in 1983 when the NC General Assembly ratified House Bill 426, enacting a 2% occupancy tax for five NC counties. This tax, which was raised incrementally and is now at 6%, is levied on rentals of rooms and lodging — think hotels, short-term rentals like Airbnbs, or bed + breakfasts. The occupancy tax is what funds the work of the BCTDA, including its grants, projects, and sponsorships.

Governed by a board of City- and County-appointed members of the hospitality industry, as well as two ex-officio members, the BCTDA oversees the work of nonprofit Explore Asheville, which promotes Buncombe County to leisure and business visitors to get them to, well, come visit. The BCTDA and Explore Asheville are also in charge of three grant funds for local businesses (we’ll get to those in a second).

The partnerships + funding

Marketing Asheville would be kind of hard if there was nothing here to market, so the work actually starts here at home. Explore Asheville has partnerships with about 1,900 local, tourism-related businesses — from artists to restaurants, hotels to retail — to provide them with free promotion like web + guide listings.

In addition to the outward-facing promotion, the BCTDA manages the Tourism Product Development Fund, which has invested $80 million in more than 40 local projects, like the Asheville Museum of Science’s beautification project and the RAD Greenway. Its Festival and Cultural Event Support Fund provides grants and sponsorship to events and festivals, like Symphony in the Park and Beer City Comic Con. The new Legacy Investment From Tourism Fund focuses on smaller scale tourism-related capital projects — that application is open until Friday, Dec. 1.

So, how was that for a civic lesson? Let us know what other areas of our local government you’d like us to explore next.