Breaking Records: Vacation Rentals Surpass Hotels in Buncombe County History

Breaking Records: Vacation Rentals Surpass Hotels in Buncombe County History

In a landmark announcement on November 30, the president and CEO of Explore Asheville and the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) revealed a significant shift in the county's hospitality landscape. For the first time in Buncombe County history, vacation rental inventory has surpassed that of hotels, marking a noteworthy trend in the local tourism industry.

During the meeting of tourism officials, Vic Isley highlighted that while hotel supply has seen gradual growth over the past four years, the surge in vacation rental supply has outpaced it substantially. Data presented by tourism officials showcased a remarkable shift, with 3,008,146 vacation rentals available compared to 2,726,501 hotel rooms through October 2022.

This revelation comes as no surprise to local business owner and housing developer Barry Bialik. He attributes this shift to the city's moratorium on hotel projects, creating a ripple effect that propelled the growth of vacation rentals. Bialik, who chairs the City of Asheville's Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, sees this not as a setback but as an opportunity. The rise in vacation rentals opens up alternative housing options without diminishing the number of visitors to the area.

Bialik suggests that, given the exorbitant housing costs in the region, many locals have turned to vacation rentals as a means to supplement their income by renting out parts of their homes. In his view, short-term rentals could even be leveraged to address the housing crisis, proposing innovative solutions such as allowing two accessory dwelling units (ADUs), with one designated for short-term rentals and the other for affordable housing.

While acknowledging the multifaceted nature of the housing crisis, Bialik emphasizes the potential of short-term rentals to both support housing costs and contribute to housing availability.

Larry Crosby, the General Manager of The Foundry Hotel and BCDTA member, sees the vacation rental boom not as a threat but as complementary to hotels. He believes hotels and short-term rentals cater to different customers and offer distinct experiences, indicating that both can coexist harmoniously in the market.

However, the question arises: How many vacation rentals are too many? Crosby observes a plateau in demand since the peak of 2021, suggesting that the market may be approaching saturation. Data presented by the TDA reveals 3,008,146 vacation rentals available through October 2022, compared to vacation rental demand of 1,908,205.

Crosby raises concerns about potential oversaturation and its impact on affordability in Buncombe County. He notes the importance of maintaining sustainable growth and avoiding challenges in the affordability crisis.

In response to these developments, Vic Isley, the CEO and president of Explore Asheville and the BCTDA, emphasizes the positive impact of tourism on local residents. He underscores that most hotels, vacation rentals, and B&Bs are owned by local residents who benefit from tourism, supporting local jobs.

As the county navigates this historic shift, Explore Asheville and the tourism development authority plan to provide further data insights in their January board meeting, offering a comprehensive year-end review of the evolving hospitality landscape.

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