Summer tourist season in Asheville could lead to longer queues at restaurants

Luella's Bar-B-Que co-owner Jeff Miller expects more patrons at restaurants north and south of Asheville.

ASHVILLE – Dining halls fill up all over the city as the summer tourist season begins, which can be a blessing for businesses but a nuisance for guests waiting to enter.

“Historically, Memorial Day weekend kind of kicks off the summer tourist season, so Saturday, Sunday and Monday tend to be more crowded than usual,” said Mary Evans, spokesperson for Pack’s Tavern in downtown Asheville.

Vanessa Salomo, COO of Chestnut and Corner Kitchen, is optimistic about the summer tourist season. Bookings and check-ins are already on the rise at Chestnut in the city center and Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village, she said.

“To the best of my knowledge from hotel owners I know in the community, occupancy has increased and is higher than it has been in many years,” Salomo said in an email. “We’re lucky to have a solid local fan base and they know to book in advance or call to get a seat.”

Corner kitchen in Biltmore Village.

Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer, said Cathy Petersen, director of public information at Explore Asheville. Hotel and rental holiday home occupancy rates are indicators of tourism trends, and are expected to spike every year around the holiday weekend.

No booking? Turned away? How to get to key restaurants in Asheville

Peterson cited a Smith Travel Research report that showed hotel occupancy across the country was at its highest, at 98.1% on the Saturday of the 2019 holiday weekend. In 2021, hotels had 96% occupancy on Saturday.

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