Some leaders in Asheville think the city should spend some of its hotel room tax proceeds to pay for police or other services.

But many hotel owners and state lawmakers think the money is better spent to continue marketing efforts that have made Asheville a top destination.

The General Assembly is discussing a bill that would allow Asheville to increase its room tax from 4 percent to 6 percent. But the proposal continues to send all the money to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to boost tourism or on projects that would attract more visitors.

While tourism is important, it shouldn’t get all the money and be the top priority, City Councilman Gordon Smith told the Asheville Citizen-Times.

“We have to build Asheville first for people who live here. The fact that other people like that is great, but it’s Asheville first,” he said. “We need to make sure that we’re not turning our city into a place for others.”

Other city officials wonder if hotel owners are pushing hard to keep all the extra revenue going toward recruiting tourists because of the rapid increase in hotel rooms in the area. Buncombe County is expected to go from 7,200 rooms to 8,800 rooms over the next three years, and more visitors will be needed to help keep everyone making money.

But business and tourism leaders said Asheville didn’t become one of the hottest tourist destinations by accident. There was an effort to sell the city, and leaders can’t now sit back and expect people to keep coming, said Kit Cramer, president and CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Does Pepsi stop advertising? Does Coke?” she said.

“It baffles me that people think people are coming here (only) because it’s cool. They won’t come here if they haven’t heard about it,” Cramer said.

Some North Carolina cities are trying to get permission to spend hotel tax revenues on infrastructure like police and roads. Other big Southern tourist towns like Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, already spend their room taxes that way.

Photo Credit: A dinner plate at 12 Bones, which is arguably Asheville's greatest attraction. Craige Moore / Flickr