HB2 Starting to Impact Asheville's Tourism Industry; City Council to Consider 'Protest Resolution'

Mar 31, 2016

Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer says City Council will consider a resolution on North Carolina House Bill 2 on April 12th expressing "disappointment" in the legislation.  In an interview with WCQS, Manheimer called the bill an overreach and an inappropriate reaction to Charlotte passing an ordinance.

Esther Manheimer: "And my biggest concern about it is the message it sends to our LGBTQ community that they are not valued as other members of our community, and that's not right."

Manheimer says she hopes the Asheville resolution and others like it combined with the growing condemnation from companies will encourage the legislature to consider revisiting the issue.

Governor Pat McCrory signed the law banning cities and towns from adopting non-discrimination policies on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  The legislature passed HB2 in a one-day special session in response to a Charlotte ordinance that gave protections to the LGBT community.  Republican leaders were particularly incensed about a provision allowing transgender people to use restrooms corresponding with their gender identity.  They said that could literally open the bathroom door to people hoping to prey on women and children.  The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, Lambda Legal, and Equality North Carolina joined citizens in filing a federal lawsuit against HB2.  They argue the bill legalizes discrimination and that the General Assembly went far beyond reversing Charlotte's ordinance. 

More than 90 businesses signed on to an open letter denouncing the law, and a growing number of states and cities are banning official government travel to North Carolina because of the law.  In Asheville, the impact is starting to be felt.  Kit Cramer, president and CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce says she's hearing from individuals and businesses cancelling their visits. 

Kit Cramer:  "You know discrimination is just frowned upon and it's a clear value and people are communicating their concern with this statewide move."

You can hear Cramer's full comments below.

WCQS reached Julia Akers, Director of Marketing Communications at the Asheville resort Omni Grove Park Inn.  She says so far the impact there has been small.

Julia Akers: "We've had one individual guest cancel.  They specifically said they were cancelling because of House Bill 2.  But we have not seen any impact in terms of our group meetings business, meeting planners, currently."

Akers said she couldn't speculate on how HB2 is going to impact the tourism industry.

Akers:  "As a resort, we're non-discriminatory.  And Asheville, as you probably know, it's certainly a market that is a very open and accepting market.  So if someone were to call and ask us about their group, we would simply state that, and it's their choice obviously whether to cancel or not."

Manheimer's official statement on HB2 reads as follows:

“In light of the passage of HB2, it is important for the City of Asheville to reiterate our core values of embracing diversity and equal opportunity — captured in the recently adopted vision statement by the Asheville City Council.”

“Asheville is a welcoming city that thrives on diversity and equality. We take pride in our unique character and openness to all, without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, familial status or disability. As our legal staff works to better understand HB2, the effects will not change our commitment to these values. Asheville will continue to be a place where we can be proud to live, work and raise families in a community that celebrates our differences.”

“On April 12, Asheville City Council will consider a resolution regarding the passage of HB2.”