ASHEVILLE — Biltmore Estate is a North Carolina tourism powerhouse, and its Christmas at Biltmore is the site’s busiest time of the year.
This year, 62 decorated trees — highlighted by the Banquet Hall’s 35-foot Fraser fir — are found inside the 178,926-square foot home, with another 44 throughout the nearly 11-square mile estate for the 360,000 people who will visit during the holiday season, Biltmore public relations coordinator Mallory Flynn said.
Many of those are repeat guests. Flynn said 30 to 40 percent of Biltmore’s attendance includes returning visitors, but that more than half of holiday guests are repeat customers.
To get visitors coming back, Christmas at Biltmore offers a new theme each year. For 2016 the theme is “Hearth and Home,” meant to recreate George Vanderbilt’s vision of what the home could be and mean to his family.
On top of the annual Candlelight Christmas Evenings — the mansion has roughly 30,000 lights inside and another 75,000 on the front lawn’s 55-foot-tall Norway spruce and surrounding landscaping — Biltmore is offering a Candlelight Winery Tour for an extra $20.
The estate also added a new decoration this year: a replica of Biltmore Village that visitors can view on the table of the Banquet Hall.
Throughout the estate, Biltmore uses 7,527 feet of fresh garland made of white pine and Fraser fir, replaced weekly, and 360 fresh and 130 faux wreaths.
Biltmore employs approximately 2,300 employees and is a cornerstone of the Asheville economy. Every five to six years, Biltmore does an economic impact study and the most recent was done in 2013 with another planned for next year.
The 2013 report found Biltmore is responsible for 4,400 jobs in Asheville, leading to $139 million in wages and benefits. It also generates $27 million in state and local tax, and $238 million in value added expenditures.