A dumb Huffington Post entry earlier this week included Asheville in a list of 10 “Terribly Overrated Destinations.” The post is one no-name travel writer’s opinion, but it sure has created a lot of handwringing in Asheville, which pretty much used to everyone telling us how great we are and even our shit don’t stink.
Here’s on interesting opinion written by a poster on Reddit Asheville, which has a great thread going. This writer hits on a key theme – Asheville’s love-hate relationship with tourists, and the implications of that. Here you go:
I just fear that people will really begin to see they are not getting what they paid for and that we won’t be able to swallow our pride to share it with them. If that happens, we will continue to only receive visitors that are content spending money as long as it’s at places that they don’t recognize the name of, and who will venture out of Downtown for half a day to crowd up all of the trails within a 50-minute radius of town; that will cause us to become more frustrated and think we hate the tourists when we really hate ourselves for putting us in this situation.
The author isn’t insulting us or our town because he hasn’t seen it. He’s seen the town that we are selling, and he sees right through it. I think that is something to be wary of because right now, our economy is relying on that sell, and our main frustration in town seems to be that we are not drawing in people we like to hang out with. We can’t complain about the tourists while simultaneously believing our city is as awesome as we have been saying. We also can’t keep building our town up as an attraction because it will become something that we don’t want to be a part of; we’ve already done this to Downtown and many of us scoff at the thought of spending time there anymore. As it is, our city would not be comfortable without some kind of outside money. We either have to change that (completely undo the work we’ve done for the past decade), learn to graciously accept these outsiders and try harder to share our true self with them, or keep putting effort into building this playground we hate for people we don’t want to hang out with and then living on the outskirts frustrated and annoyed.
We used to look forward to Bele Chere, but we all acknowledge that it is not fun anymore. Is it because the actual event is truly something different from what it once was, or is it that we are spiteful for having to share it with so many people that are not part of our community. Will we figure out a way to allow them to be part of the community? I think that will be the key.
I’ve no real solution, I just wanted to express that I agree with the author that we are not what we claim to be for outsiders. That we have a strange paradoxical relationship with tourists. That our town is two-faced, but we refuse to see it. That we are an open-minded and caring bunch within the community, but are reluctant in sharing that spirit externally.
I think the writer went to West Asheville and not downtown.
Who really gives a crap anymore? It is publicity, no more and no less. Sure, he is a douche, but most journalists are. It won’t affect Asheville one bit.
“Physically and emotionally fragmented”? What does that even mean? Without additional clarification it might as well be nonsense syllables. How is Biltmore “soulless”? “Hamptons with no beach”? Are the Hamptons “Asheville with no mountains”? Yeah, we should be able to look at ourselves honestly, take criticism, yada, yada, yada; but this is just meaningless drivel.
He is just saying that Asheville is haven for the isolationist wealthy who don’t want to be bothered with local yokels. When you look at the local gated communities, he has a point, but clearly Asheville has an equal number of hovels as McMansions, so obviously he hasn’t spent much (if any) time here.
I agree that Biltmore Estate is soulless. While I tend to lean more conservative/capitalist, when I visit there, the extravagence gives me a little bit more empathy toward the whole “occupation” farce against the 1%. And no one will convince me otherwise, not even those who tout the Biltmores’ promotion of agricultural self-sufficiency and investment in local craft industries. The house is a glaring reminder that they were as 1% as robber-barons come.
I might add a rhetorical question. “A weak community is a place where people can’t or won’t give their gifts”- given our unemployment/underemployment rate, what kind of community do we really want?
From my experience, the “hand-wringing” over one more silly listacle hints at deeper issues within the community. There’s an opportunity here for collective community dialogue. At issue (well, one of them), is an economic development strategy that is off-kilter. Focusing a majority of efforts on the demand side- recruitment efforts whether it be tourism or industry- has served to neglect the need for more dynamic supply-sided efforts. We’ve created a “Shiny, Happy People” branding facade, which takes a great deal of energy and resources to perpetuate. Without the dynamism of building on assets and creating a 21st c economy, the shiny happy gives way to the tired and old. Dynamic communities constantly recreate themselves. I’ve seen this cycle occur in other cities. As long as Asheville focuses solely on externals (Top lists, branding, tourism)and ignores its internal assets and opportunities, the cyclical impacts will hit harder. People within the community, who are already here, have assets and abilities, and will serve as the sources of regeneration. Ignore them, and you get a boring place. “When a place gets boring, even the rich people leave.”
Don’t know if you made it up, but love “listacle”! Great word for annoying dreadful, unimaginative articles
Travel writers get paid to write provocative articles to get reactions from readers and that’s exactly what this yahoo did. Did he have some valid points? Maybe. My first reaction was to tell the guy to not let the door hit him in the butt on his way out of town. But then, I thought that he would probably miss out on the fine beer that Asheville offers, or the great and diverse food that you can discover here. Or that you can grab your kayak or canoe and head down the river anytime you want. Or walk down a trail. Or visit the Arboretum. Or spend an afternoon or an entire day visiting art galleries. Or grab a lawn chair and listen to a free bluegrass concert downtown at Shindig on the Green. Or heaven forbid, if you love history, spend a little money and visit the incredible Biltmore Estate (I happen to have an annual pass). And if you really want to top off your night, have a drink on the back porch of the Grove Park Inn and watch the sunset over the mountains. But, by all means, bypass Asheville, if this is not your cup of tea. We’re not a perfect city (what city is?). But drive right by Asheville? I don’t think so.
I’m a transplant from New York. We’ve been here for a little less than 5 years and love it. Raising the rest of the Family here. Our oldest moved with us. Transferred to UNCA and Graduated. Now works in Asheville and lives there too. He loves it and was glad we moved here. Our next Guy graduated from Reynolds HS and is in his 2nd year at Chapel Hill. He loves all of North Carolina and was glad we moved here even though he says he was very reluctant about the unknown(we knew). Our next child, were Triplets who are freshmen at Reynolds HS and they have more friends here than up in NY. Happy and of course as beginning Teen’s it’s anybody’s game. If at all like their 2 brothers I know they will do just fine. For my Wife and Myself this is really the land of wonder and Beauty, Knowledge with all the history, the atmosphere and the people and for me one thing stands out, less traffic and traffic jams as New Yorker’s know so well! My wife was transferred to Charlotte through her job and we didn’t like Charlotte that much. So we did our research and ended up in this beautiful land. When we first visited we were struck by the beauty and the people. The foods from all different types of high quality first rate restaurants. The art all around town with the night spots all showing off what they are there for. The music is out of this world. Any kind from Classical to Hill Blues, the Jazz and Rock along with the New
Age and the Electronic music’s with the Moog era. Professor Moog taught at UNCA and if only he knew what has become of his inventions. So as you can see as a transplant I’m in love with where I reside and see much more coming to Asheville in the future. About Bele Chere it’s not about the outsiders but what the people of Asheville think it should be. I agree that Bele Chere is not what has me intrigued with the City and should be either stopped and replaced by something else. The People who were visiting were not all good people and cost more to keep them in line than it was worth and made a bad impression on me but as I said it wasn’t Bele Chere that brought us here but the Beauty in all that the beautiful peoples of Asheville offered Me and my Family. For the person who just came for Bele Chere and was ripped off in a way. They didn’t see what I’ve been seeing for 5 years now and probably for the rest of my life. Thank You Asheville!!!
Much ado about nothing. The easiest way for a snarky, lazy writer to get attention is to say something’s overrated if it’s much loved. It’s one guy, people.
The writer prefers Detroit over Chicago, because it is more “honest” and likes Portland’s no frills strip clubs. Given those proclivities, it’s no wonder that Asheville made him go all cranky pants.
Bele Cher is a terrible example. The city loses money during that event. Or at least the local businesses do.
Either way, that’s a poor plan of action, create a distraction in town so tourists don’t head to our favorite spots outside of town? I don’t get it.
I really don’t get any of this hullabaloo. There isn’t anything special about Asheville. It has as much going on historically as any small town, and no more interesting than any other town, either. People come to watch the leaves change, but they turn the same colors in every other state, too. Yea, tourism helps us pay our bills, but it’s not why we live here. So everyone calm down.
(Also, bloggers should put editors on their payroll so I don’t always have to wonder if they were drunk when writing their posts.)
“learn to graciously accept these outsiders and try harder to share our true self with them.” That is exactly what I’ve been saying. I am a local business owner who covets tourism, but coming from a SoCal beach tourist town, I have to say that tourists here are much different than anywhere else. they tend to be people who come back again and again. because they themselves feel “invested” in this vortex of a town, I feel that most give it/us a respect that most “tourists” in other travel destinations don’t give. I laugh at locals who think it’s okay to be frustrated and annoyed at downtown. this is your town! and it’s way more awesome than a lot of other towns! quit complaining and do something! idk..maybe it’s my circle of friends, but everyone I know is pretty damn happy to be a part of whats going on here. As for the article, it was clearly a joke..but by all means lets discuss it and dissect it while enjoying a great local beer and a wonderful meal at a beautiful outdoor eatery with our dogs…
As an Asheville native, I’d rather have the annoying tourists, semi-cosmopolitan culture, and vibrant downtown of today, than the abandoned streets, derelict buildings and quaint folkiness of the late ’70’s & early ’80’s. Most residents have no idea how it was. They think it’s always been the way it was when they moved here, when Barley’s and Tupelo Honey were new and fresh, or when one could easily get a ticket to a show at the Orange Peel,or be in the up front for your favorite band at the Grey Eagle. However there was a time when none of that existed, and let me tell you Asheville was boring, quaint, but boring. I’ll take a two-faced Asheville over a dead Asheville any day.
All you have to do is read that Chicago is less desirable than Detroit and you know the writer has his undies in a bunch about something. Don’t take anything in that article seriously. I mean….. who on earth goes to Houston unless they have to?
Bet you’ve never been to Houston.
Interesting. When Asheville makes all sorts of obscure, meaningless lists (Best Cities For Pogo Stick Jumping After Midnight) we ooh and ah at how awesome we are. We when make another obscure and meaningless list that gives us the brush off it is “dumb.”
Sorry folks, you can’t have it both ways.
I didn’t like those articles either.
In a perusal of the entire article, SF and AVL are different from the other destinations, in that the writer advises to go to their surrounds.
All the other “dubious” destinations are given a specific option to attend instead. It seems to me that the writer wanted to bash SF and AVL, but couldn’t come up with reasonable alternatives.
Poor writing, as far as I’m concerned.
The Huffpost piece is snarky, and snark is tiresome. It is even more tiresome than hype. (For instance, the hype of Asheville as a hip destination.) The author suggests that instead of Asheville, the traveler vist GSMNP, Mt. Mitchell, and BRP. And would not Asheville be the ideal hub for these destinations?
His own website suggests stopping in Asheville on a drive along the BRP.
But his points stand to some extent, even if made blunt to fit the format. “Welcome tourists, tip your server who has a masters degree and no health insurance” is not a solid foundation for a city.
He was struggling to compile a list of negatives. One of the first he cites is congestion. Really? Compared to Outer Mongolia? Montana?
Huffington Post has a lot of volume to fill. This is a prime example of why they should be smaller. All “list” articles are nonsense.