Here’s my email on the occupancy tax and BCTDA:
Subj: Buncombe tourism advertising needs to be an industry expense versus public expense, 6/28/15
Greetings to those with local fiscal and legislative control over Buncombe County’s Tourism Development Authority,
Heather Rayburn is right that factors at BCTDA’s inception in 1983 no longer apply.
I wish the citizen curiosity around BCTDA activities these days wasn’t referred to as investigating ‘shenanigans’. However valid the other Asheville citizen concerns, use of that particular term wasn’t my idea. To me this issue of occupancy tax distributions is a straight strategy shift necessary to reflect new factors as of 2015.
We are experiencing a lot of tourism, reflected by Buncombe tourism recently adding $4.4 B in Buncombe tourist-related spending to our community. There’s more local, state, and Federal tax revenues involved. There’s more to the economics as tourism connects to real estate industry successes. There is A LOT of money involved. Therefore there is a lot of power shift, territorialism, and stakeholder results involved in making changes.
There’s still going to be a healthy occupancy tax in the future, but issues like BCTDA funded CVB tourism marketing must come off industry’s bottom line through fundraising campaigns and CVB membership fees… ASAP. Unless a North Carolina community can prove they lack tourism dollars at a realistic level, these tax-payer subsidized ads benefiting multinational corporations (MNCs) like Starwood and IHG must end. Yes, a marketing strategy adjustment that emphasizes local tourist attractions (but not MNCs), national parks, and our independent local businesses (including B & Bs) can be ameliorated. But lumping together MNCs and our local independent offers is part of what needs to change about what BCTDA strategy.
My estimation is that the more folks prolong this inevitable conclusion of changes to occupancy tax direction and BCTDA structuring, the worse the local vibe towards tourism industry players and tourists themselves will get.
It’s easy to capture big profits around tourism, especially with our tax dollars going to tourism recruitment. Today’s WNC tourism base is flourishing and removing $4 million in taxpayer subsidies for advertising will be adjusted for with little real consequence given the billions in Buncombe tourism cash flows.
Mountain Xpress recently covered a poll naming Craggy Gardens as ‘the most beautiful place’ in North Carolina. The people, local entrepreneurs, cultural, and natural resources are keys to drawing non-business travel to Asheville and WNC. Right now most of the travel is via POV. I look forward to working with you all on a sustainable tourism strategy that includes passenger rail, along with other sustainable tourism needs.
Grant Millin, Innovation Strategist and Owner
InnovoGraph LLC – Strategic Innovation Services and Management Consulting