Tourists subsidized Buncombe residents $380 per person

By Pete Kaliner

August 22, 2019

One of the constant refrains in the public debate over growth and development in Asheville is that how "downtown isn't for locals anymore." Aside from the obvious point that if City Council wants more residents in downtown, they can create incentives to build tall residential buildings in downtown, I am not so sure the criticism is with merit.

Last night, Christy & I went downtown to have dinner. I was struck by how few people were milling about. Of course, weekends are a completely different story in downtown - where the sidewalks are crumbling under the weight of enormous hordes of tourists. But a weeknights are different. Perhaps folks who lament the loss of a sparsely-populated downtown can make plans to visit on days when the service industry needs their business the most.

In today's local political climate it is convenient and gratifying to rail against tourism as the cause for most ills. It's definitely not ALL positive, so some of the criticisms are legitimate and with merit. However, the economic benefits of the local tourism industry far outweighs the negatives.

It bears repeating: Tourists subsidize local taxpayers.

New data from the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina shows this, as well:

The average Buncombe County resident saved $379.50 in taxes due to tourist spending. As I've outlined before - tourists subsidize residents. Despite what the Mayor of Asheville says.

The local tourism industry generated about $40 million in local sales taxes - not including property tax revenue.

The demagoguery of the tourism industry by local elected officials needs to stop.

The people coming to the mountains of Western North Carolina are, for the most part, fellow Tar Heels who have visited many times before. Blaming them for our own inability to plan for growth is dishonest and unseemly. Take a look at who our guests are:

Tourism represents a net benefit to our community. It also generates a ton of money for us. But if local officials keep acting like they want people to go somewhere else, eventually they will do so.

Pete's Prep: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019

  • From the Asheville Citizen-Times: "Pack Square will host another rally for GoTopless day this year on Aug. 25, the day before the 19th Amendment — which granted women the right to vote — celebrates its 99-year anniversary."
  • From the News & Observer: "Days before the start of the new school year, a motion has been granted to block the use of the controversial new Istation reading program in North Carolina’s public schools. The state Department of Information Technology granted Amplify Education’s motion Monday for a temporary stay against the use of Istation while a dispute is heard over how the contract was awarded."
  • Dr. Terry Stoops at the Carolina Journal examines the NC teacher "shortage": "do North Carolina public schools have a teacher recruitment and retention crisis? The statewide figures and trends suggest they don’t, but the answer depends on local and regional circumstances. Some districts struggle to recruit and retain outstanding educators, while others have nominal turnover and vacancy rates. The mainstream media and public school advocacy organizations should celebrate the successes of North Carolina’s school districts and accurately portray their challenges."
  • According to the Stanly News & Press: "Stanly had the highest rate of opioid overdoses showing up in hospital emergency rooms, according to data released by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Union, Robeson, Buncombe, Davidson, Randolph, Pitt, Rowan, Mecklenburg and Alamance rounded out the top 10."

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