Sustainable Tourism – A Conversation for Blowing Rock

The community should start a conversation about what sustainable tourism means to Blowing Rock. Blowing Rock is not alone in sorting out the success and impact on local communities around world.

Charleston is hosting a panel on October 29th with panelists from Amsterdam for example. I found a relevant post and video that articulates the issues. https://sustainabletourism.net/

Blowing Rock has always been a resort destination attracting seasonal homeowners who invest in property, support local businesses and support charitable causes. We need to understand that seasonal homeowners have a choice of where they invest their money and lives.

Through and after the recession, the Tourism Development Authority focused on promoting tourism with great success. Funding from the hotel occupancy tax is about $1M now and is allocated about 1/3 for Town projects involving tourism like parking garages, 1/3 for promotion and 1/3 for overhead. Blowing Rock and many other communities are “On the Map” attracting transient tourist. Our TDA charter requires that the board consider the impact of tourism to all stakeholders. Success should be measured not only by quantity of tourists, but quality of life for all and the Town operating budget impact to support the influx of tourists.

Our tourism economy includes seasonal homeowners, vacationers and day tourists. Day tourists are two types – Active outdoor tourists taking advantage of our amazing conserved lands and downtown tourists who walk Main Street, shop, eat, and use Memorial Park. Each type of tourist has an different impact on the economy and different costs. After completion of Middle Fork Greenway and the sidewalk to Bass Lake, we should expect an increase in both vacationers and day tourists. This is an opportunity to focus and capitalize on this new group of tourists.

The big stakeholders in this wave of success are business owners, homeowners and the Town government. Hopefully this conversation can begin after the town council election, probably at the Town Council’s Winter Retreat.

The Civic Association has asked that the Town convene an update to the 2014 Comprehensive Plan next summer. The Comprehensive Plan is meant to set guidelines and goals for the community to manage growth in the future. The big challenges that affect all stakeholders to discuss are:
1. Updating Land Use Codes for each section of the business district to encourage re-development and preserve the historical village.
2. Develop a Parking Solution that is comprehensive and includes paid parking.
3. Managing the impacts of Tourism and re-balancing our economic development equation to include the homeowner economy.

The Civic Association is a voice for homeowners who pay 85% of property taxes. We respect the views and importance of tourism and support of local businesses, but we are asking the community and out Town Council to address the “elephant in the room”. The question for all stakeholders is how can we balance this impact of tourism for the benefit of all. The current alternative for homeowners is to simply avoid downtown on the weekends, but at some point the negative impact of being overwhelmed by tourists may motivate homeowners to choose other locations to invest in our community. We can reach a balance if all stakeholders are open minded to solving this “good problem”.

Please review the Action Plan posted on the Blowing Rock Civic Association website to understand our goals for 2020 at www.brcivic.org.

We welcome your comments. Please email me at gupton@brcivic.org.

Tim Gupton
President

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