Local tourism board attracts too many visitors.
Asheville, North Carolina now has a booming tourism sector, thanks in part to a $23 million annual destination marketing budget allocated to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. On average, 30,410 people visit Buncombe County each day, spending $5.4 million daily.
That’s great news for the local economy, but Asheville city council members are now getting uneasy about all of the hotel developments now sprouting up around town. So much so that a moratorium on new hotel construction has been proposed, in order to give the city council time to establish better protocol for approving new projects.
More than 500 new hotel rooms are scheduled to come online by the end of 2019 in Buncombe County, according to Bennjin Lao, a business development executive for hotels with STR, Inc., hired by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.
Too many cookie-cutter hotels?
Most of these new hotel developments appear to be flagged chain properties. They include the Glo Best Western Hotel in Haw Creek, Hotel Arras in downtown Asheville, an Element by Westin, a Hampton Inn in Black Mountain and a Fairfield Inn & Suites in Weaverville.
It also appears that certain city officials are concerned about the pace of hotel development. A temporary ban was proposed last month by Councilwoman Julie Mayfield.
“We could have a moratorium in place, I think, well before the end of the year, in order to give us the breathing room that we need to have the conversation around guardrails and around hotel construction in the city that we have been talking about for several months, and not yet done anything about,” she said.
Not surprisingly, there are opposing views about whether a moratorium should happen. New development proposals now coming up for approval echo the concerns that local officials are having about the swell in hotel construction; fingers point to questionable aesthetics and design.
Mixed-use the problem
Developer Birju Patel has proposed $40 million mixed-use development with 150 hotel rooms on top of 30 residential units, in-building parking, and about 4,000 square feet of commercial space. In a recent interview with local news, Patel said he and architect Peter Alberice believe the effort is "different than any that has come before us." He emphasized the project's connection to the local art scene and how six of the units would be rent capped at US$500 a month.