Hotel sales, vacation rentals continue to boom in Buncombe County

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ASHEVILLE – The Asheville area hotel and lodging market continued to show strong growth again in late 2021, a further sign that the area’s tourism economy is recovering.

For November, total lodging sales for Buncombe County came in at $55.9 million, a 54% increase over November 2020, according to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s monthly report. While the local tourism economy tanked early in the pandemic, in spring 2020, it has steadily regained momentum since.

The TDA’s board reviewed the numbers at its regular monthly meeting Jan. 26, held virtually. The authority did not meet in December, so it went over two months of data in this meeting, for October and November.

Don Warn, Buncombe County’s finance director and the fiscal agent for the TDA, described the lodging numbers for October and November of 2021 as “amazing.” The TDA’s current fiscal year runs from July 2021-June 2022.

While the numbers are heading in the right direction, TDA President and CEO Vic Isley and board Chair Kathleen Mosher noted in a press release after the meeting that hotel occupancy is still not quite where it was in the benchmark, pre-pandemic year of 2019.

“Hotel occupancy for the month of November 2021 was 74%, down two points from 2019 levels,” the two leaders said in a press release. “Short-term vacation rentals reached 70% in November 2021, up eight points from the benchmark year of 2019.”

For December, hotel occupancy was “on par with 2019 levels at 69%, three points higher than vacation rentals at 66%,” they noted.

“However, vacation rentals were up 10 points in December over 2019 levels, continuing to be good news for local residents who earn incremental income from visitors using their vacation rentals,” they said.

Some other highlights from the monthly report:

• Vacation rentals once again showed particularly strong performance, with sales tallying $17.5 million in November, a 66% increase over the previous year.

Story continues

• For the first five months of the 2022 fiscal year – July-November – vacation rentals totaled $100.4 million in Buncombe, making up 33.1% of all lodging revenues.

• Hotel/motel lodging still comprised the lion’s share for the July-November time frame, generating $194.6 million in sales, for 64.2% of the total.

• For bed & breakfast establishments, sales totaled $8.1 million, or 2.7% of all lodging.

The TDA derives most of its funding from a 6% occupancy tax on lodging sales, so increased sales mean more revenue for the agency. In its report, the TDA noted occupancy tax revenue through November stood at $10.5 million, up 52.5% over the same time frame in the previous fiscal year.

By state statute, the TDA must spend 75% of the occupancy tax on tourism promotion, and 25% on the Tourism Product Development Fund, which is invested in tourism-related projects.

For the 2022 fiscal year, the current product development fund amount available is $10.4M.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Buncombe County hotel sales and vacation rentals continue to increase

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