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Monday is #NationalTourismDay

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Photo by @yohojeremy

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During the months from spring to fall, the streets downtown are more crowded, parking is scarce + the Parkway is crawling with cars. Most of us, especially if you work in the service industry, consider these nine months as “tourist season”. Since it’s about that time again + Monday is #NationalTourismDay, we thought we would take a look at how tourism affects our local economy.

The population of Asheville is right at 90,000 (256,000 in Buncombe County) and while that is considered small in comparison to Charlotte or Winston-Salem + large compared to Hickory or Boone, it’s well known that Asheville comes in at no. 1 when it comes to out-of-towners checking out our city (and mountains).

Now before you complain about how the tourists need to go home, there are two sides to every story. Like, a ton of $$ coming into our local economy from tourists.

Take a look at how the tourism industry has funded the City of Asheville as a whole. ⬇

Tourism by the numbers

  1. 3.8 million overnight tourists came to Buncombe County in 2016. Additionally, 6.1 million people came for day visits, shopping, hiking, to visit friends + family, attend medical appointments, breweries + more.
  2. $1.9 billion was spent by visitors at local businesses–generating $2.9 billion in total sales. 24% of that amount was spent in food + beverage, 21% in retail, 17% in lodging, 13% in recreation + 13% elsewhere.
  3. 26,700 jobs are supported by visitor spending. Without visitor spending, the unemployment rate in Buncombe County would be 15.2%. As of March 2018, the county’s unemployment rate is at 3.3%.
  4. $97 million of sales tax was paid by visitors. This amount represented 43% of all sales tax produced by the county.
  5. Visitor spending makes up $49 million of property taxes annually.
  6. Visitor spending in Buncombe County has grown 136% between 2000 + 2016. This amount is significantly larger than the state average of 90%. Also, this is the highest growth among the top 10 counties (including Mecklenburg County–the Charlotte area).
  7. About 29,800 people visit Buncombe County each day. This results in $5.2 million being spent daily.
  8. Certain events + festivals such as North Carolina Arboretum Summer Lights, Eliada Corn Maze, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue Asheville Vegan Fest, Asheville Downtown Association Independence Day Celebration, RiverLink RiverMusic & RiverFest, Montford Tour of Homes & Neighborhood Fest + more are funded by grants that help grow the cultural + tourism scene of Buncombe County.
  9. In 2001 the TPDF (Tourism Product Development Fund) was created as a fund for capital projects that increase tourism. These projects include: The John B. Lewis Soccer Complex at Azalea Park, Grove Arcade, Pack Square Park, The Orange Peel, Smoky Mountain Adventure Center, The Collider, Highland Brewing Co., AMOS, WNC Farmers Market, The Wortham Center, U.S. Cellular Center, Friends of the WNC Nature Center, Navitat Canopy Adventures, + more. A total of 33 projects has resulted in a funding of $34.5 million.
  10. Tourism is the third largest employer in the area (stay tuned to learn about other big employers in the county) and is significant to the growth of Asheville’s economy.

* Thanks to Explore Asheville for this research. More here.

Due to my college days working at Luella’s Bar-B-Que, Tupelo Honey Cafe + Union His & Her Boutique, I quickly learned how vital tourism is to the businesses in Asheville.

Once spring break hits, it’s officially the busy season for the service industry – surprisingly, it stays that way until New Years Eve.

On the flip side, the slow months taught me what a small city Asheville really is. (Like seeing someone I know everytime I head to Trader Joe’s, French Broad Dog Park, or High Five Coffee).

On that note, TGIF, Asheville!!


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