Asheville Daily Planet
RSS Facebook
Why is Asheville tourism down? Word has gotten out, triggering safety concerns, E. Asheville activist says
Saturday, 16 September 2023 13:59

From Staff Reports

Following the announcement by local tourism officials that Asheville’s tourism lodging in July dropped 2.4 percent, continuing an unusually up-and-down pattern for a normally robust tourist town, prompting varied explanations by local leaders and experts, more than a few of whom fail to mention — or downplay — safety concerns, Bailey Stockwell could barely contain her exasperation at what she sees as hypocrisy.

(July is traditionally the best month for tourism in Asheville.)

 “Well, we need to stop pretending that this isn’t a crime and safety issue — or that people just decided to visit somewhere else,” Stockwell told the Daily Planet in a Sept. 9 telephone interview. Stockwell is an East Asheville neighborhood leader and recently was named co-chair of the Asheville Coalition for Public Safety.

“I think perception is reality,” Stockwell said of Asheville’s crime problem. “Word has gotten around — that the city is not a safe place to visit. People don’t want to come to a city that they fear for their kids walking up and down the streets.

“If they (the officials and experts) are making any claims other than the fact that this is the result of crime and safety issues, then they’re missing the mark. This is a product of why we’re in the situation we’re in — not recognizing the problem.”

Stockwell added, “I think the leadership of Asheville has a bad habit of funding or supporting something that is not successful. Then, instead of recognizing that something has failed and instead of changing it, they just double-down funding for what created the demise. 

“It’s a safety issue,” she said. “It’s a crime issue... The city manager (Debra Campbell) is not managing the issues well.

“We’ve given a lot of power to nonprofits to manage the issues — and that’s not improving the situation.

“We need to look at how we fund things and how we give funds to certain nonprofits. I think, utimately, it will be refreshing to have someone say this is a crime and safety issue in Asheville. 

“Our leadership has failed the citizens. We have prioritized a certain subset of the community,” she said.

So to whom is Stockwell referring as “a certain subset of the community?” the Daily Planet asked.

“Yeah, the homeless,” Stockwell replied. “We have given them everything for free with no expectation to better their lives.

“If they want to really solve the problems, I wish they’d engage these faith-based shelters.” She then recommended Scott Rogers and Michael Woods as knowledgeable leaders who could help in that regard. 

Further, Stockwell asserted, “Get people registered at ABCCM (Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry) and, as people progress through the program, the second step would be to let them move into workforce housing,” she said. 

(ABCCM is located at 20 20th St. in West Asheville. Its phone number is (828) 259-5300. Its email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Pressed further by the Daily Planet on  what should be done, Stockwell said, “The ultimate goal should be to get people on their feet to get people independent to be able to get and afford their own housing.”

So what does Stockwell foresee for tourism numbers in Asheville for October, which traditionally is the second-best month for tourism in the city? the Daily Planet asked.

“In October, I don’t see things getting any better,” Stockwell answered. “If you asked me, if I didn’t live here and I’ve read all about this,” instead of going to Asheville,  I would go to Charleston (S.C.), Greenville (S.C., Hendersonville, Black Mountain or even Waynesville.

“You could go to any of those (cities) and have a safer experience and a much more enjoyable time with your family than coming to Asheville.”

With a laugh, she added, “It’s disingenous to say they (the tourism officials and experts) are shocked” about Asheville’s tourism decline in July, “when the word has gotten out on crime and safety” in the city.

What’s more, she added, “By the way, the crappy way we’ve treated the police department, and the narrative that we’ve spun around the APD, when they want to help,” leaves one in a state of shock.

“I don’t think it’s about money. Honestly, I think the Democratic Party supports certain things like harm reduction, such as free needles and free housing. These are the mindsets of the far left, who ‘dox’ people — and I think a lot of that intimidation works.”

(According to Wikipedia, “‘Doxing’ or ‘doxxing’ is the act of publicly providing personally identifiable information about an individual or organization, usually via the internet. Historically, the term has been used interchangeably to refer to both the aggregation of this information from public databases and social media websites (like Facebook), as well as the publication of previously private information obtained through criminal or otherwise fraudulent means (such as hacking and social engineering). The aggregation and provision of previously published material is generally a legal practice, though it may be subject to laws concerning stalking and intimidation.Doxing may be carried out for reasons such as online shaming, extortion and vigilante aid to law enforcement. It also may be associated with ‘hacktivism.’”)

Continuing, Stockwell said, “I think a lot of these people who drive these ideas probably have been homeless before, including drug issues and high level of mental health issues...

“You should not engage people with nonsensical solutions. I think the narrative is driven by the federal government — and these locals support this leftist ideology.”

Given her concerns, is Stockwell optimistic about the future of Asheville, insofar as safety is concerned? the Daily Planet asked.

“Response from leaders is a hint of recognition that this is becoming a big problem, as far as crime and safety are concerned,” Stockwell replied.

“But they’re not doing enough... A panhandling ordinance is not getting to the root issues. You’re working on the outside of the bubble of need. On the surface level, it’s not enough. There needs to be a plan...”

After a pause, she asserted, “The plan that they (the officials in power) have is to ‘keep doing what you’re doing.’

As for the draw of Asheville for those who are homeless, Stockwell said, “We have one-of-a-kind of services that serve this region… 

“It’s too damn late to go back now... They’re not going to stop engaging the services they’re doing now, regarding the city’s reputation as a homeless mecca.

“I would say as far as the future of tourism (in Asheville), I don’t see it getting any better — unless drastic changes are implemented.

“If our leadership came out with a well-drafted plan to promote public safety and decrease crime, then” she could envision tourism increasing in Asheville again.

Among her recommendations, she said, are to “get (U.S. Rep.) Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson County) involved with the needle (giveaway) programs.”

Also, Stockwell said, “I think if you don’t have (homeless) encampments” the “we could decrease a lot” of Asheville’s crime and public safety issues.

“I think nonprofits are a big part of the problem — they just give out things and they’re not held accountable.”

As for the future, “It (tourism) is not just going to stay where it’s at — instead the level of tourism is going to drop. The level of homelessness is going to go up. The reputation (of Asheville) is going to go down.”

So what is Stockwell’s critique of Hendersonville, with its lower crime level? the Daily Planet asked.

“I absolutely love going to Hendersonville. I feel safe when I go down there. The streets are clean. There’s almost more light there. I think that really speaks to the fact that they have a much more conservative government there. When they see a problem, they handle it right out of the gate,” Stockwell said, as the interview concluded.









contact | home

Copyright ©2005-2015 Star Fleet Communications

224 Broadway St., Asheville, NC 28801 | P.O. Box 8490, Asheville, NC 28814
phone (828) 252-6565 | fax (828) 252-6567

a Cube Creative Design site