The Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau is on the hunt for new office space following its split with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Both entities, which were legally tied together until earlier this year, have operated out of the chamber’s 36 Montford Avenue space. (Old-timers will recall that the visitors center used to be located in a building on Haywood Street where the Indigo Hotel is now; several years ago, the chamber moved after buying its current location, which was the site of the old Peddlar’s steakhouse.)
The Convention and Visitors Bureau is an extension of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, though it was set up as a subsidiary of the local Chamber of Commerce (which has its own board). The TDA, an independent board of hotel owners and hospitality industry officials, manages the revenue generated by the county’s hotel room tax.
The TDA’s budget has grown this year to about $17 million after an increase in the room tax a couple of years ago (as well as the payment of taxes by AirBnB). With booming tourism and an explosion of new hotel construction, the TDA decided earlier this year to cut ties with the chamber. With that decision, the CVB will operate under a nonprofit status, and the TDA will act as its governing board. The split will be finalized in June 2017, the end of the entity’s fiscal year.
In an email response to an inquiry, Kit Cramer, president and CEO of the local chamber, said the CVB has outgrown its space in the Montford Avenue building “but indicated a willingness to remain through a transition period.”
Chamber officials also learned that Lenoir Rhyne University officials were looking for more space. Back in 2012, the university opened its Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville on the third floor, and half of the second floor, of the chamber’s building. The chamber decided to sell the entire second floor the university.
“Given that they already own a portion of the second floor, it made sense that the Chamber consolidate our space to the whole first floor. That allows us to significantly reduce our operating costs and allows the CVB to find space that better fits their needs for the long run,” Cramer wrote.
“We have been colleagues for a long time and it will be sad to be in separate locations. However, we wish them well and will be working together for a smooth transition.”
Stephanie Brown, senior vice president and executive director of the CVB, said in an email that her organization is currently looking for a new space to occupy.
The visitors center, a popular stop for tourists operated by the chamber, will remain inside the chamber building on Montford Avenue.
Well, it’s incumbent upon the CVB to find a space and do something decent with it. Perhaps they can pay some out-of-town consultants a large sum of money to work out how that can happen.