Asheville’s hotel and Airbnb sales could break record $ 65 million despite COVID

ASHEVILLE – Accommodation sales in Buncombe County broke a record in July at $ 65 million and are set to restart in October despite the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials at the Buncombe Tourism Development Authority.

July was the second month in a row that hotels, vacation rentals and traditional bed and breakfasts collectively set a sales record, generating $ 56.7 million in June, according to the latest financial data released by the TDA.

August figures will be presented at the ADT meeting on October 27th. TDA President and CEO Victoria Isley said on October 21 that she did not yet know what the numbers were from August to October. But hosting owners are already reporting high traffic, Isley said.

“From what we hear anecdotally, we expect total accommodation sales, including hotels and vacation rentals, for October 2021 could exceed July 2021.”

Victoria "Vic" Isley.

The high sales have in turn generated record lodging taxes, which are controlled by the TDA. This has sparked new calls for tax reform that mainly goes to advertising to attract more tourists.

Hotels led sales in July at $ 40.2 million. But Airbnbs and other vacation rentals recorded some of the biggest gains, generating $ 23.2 million this month. The guesthouses grossed $ 1.7 million. The increase in vacation rentals reflects a change that occurred during the pandemic and appears to be long term, Isley said.

“This seems to show that guests in our community are not swapping vacation rentals back to hotel stays as vacation rental sales continue to climb while hotel stays rebound.”

Isley said the increase in vacation rental sales is helping different types of owners, while the increase in sales means a boost for all tourism-focused businesses.

“This positive trajectory for all accommodation partners translates into more business for other local business sectors such as outfitters and outdoor guides, retail and artist stores, restaurants, breweries. and more.”

Demonstrators in July protest against hotels and call for police reforms.

The TDA has already recorded record annual tax revenues of $ 25 million despite the pandemic. Now July is adding $ 3.7 million to the coffers.

City council and activists have called for less of this money to go to advertising and more to public services. In the face of backlash from tourism which residents said was changing the city for the worse, the council enacted a 17-month moratorium on hotel construction that ended in February.

Among those who have long called for a change in the tax is Andrew Celwyn, a member of the TDA, who said that in addition to a smaller portion for advertising, the tax needs to be more flexible “so that it can help to improve the effects of tourism “.

“Especially when it comes to affordable housing and especially the overpriced service sector workers in the Asheville area,” said Celwyn, owner of a tea and herbal store.

Andrew Celwyn

Following:Asheville, the most expensive place in the state, but the wages are low. And the gap is widening.

The dissenters, including prominent hoteliers and State Senator Chuck Edwards, recently agreed and said they would seek legislation to reduce the 75% market share to 67%. The rest goes to projects intended to boost hotel activity but which have also served residents, such as sports fields and greenways.

TDA officials now say they support the change and local hoteliers are defending it at “the highest level.”

Edwards, a Republican from Henderson County whose 48th district includes eastern Buncombe, said the legislation was a priority, although he has yet to introduce specific legislation for the local accommodation tax, according to bills listed under its General Assembly profile. He was at a conference in Washington and could not be reached on October 21, his legislative assistant said.

Other hotel tax bills for different parts of the state were passed by the House but were blocked by the Senate leadership.

Moxy Hotel renderings planned for downtown Biltmore Avenue.

Celwyn said another issue was the current 25% of the tax that goes to the Tourism Product Development Fund for projects. This program has been frozen since before the pandemic, and as of July 30 it had $ 7 million in unused revenue.

“It will be $ 8 million by Wednesday,” he said referring to the next meeting on October 27.

“At the moment, we have no direction for the money going into the TPDF.”

Joel Burgess has lived at WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Help us support this type of journalism by subscribing to the Citizen Times.

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