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The Tourism Improvement District Revolution

By Melanee Cottrill, Civitas
If you’ve seen us speak at a conference lately, you’ve heard the news – tourism improvement districts are booming!   From humble beginnings in 1989, to a global phenomenon, tourism improvement districts are on the rise.  Let’s take a look back at where we started, and just how far we’ve come.

Humble Beginnings

The first tourism improvement district was formed in West Hollywood, California in the summer of 1989, and became effective in October of the same year.  With a one percent assessment and a mandate to “develop and implement a destination marketing strategy targeting potential hotel guests,” West Hollywood set the stage for a big budget revolution.

The Revolution Takes Off

At first, it was a slow revolution.  It wasn’t until six years later that two more TIDs were formed.  Then, another five year wait for two more – that’s eleven years for just four districts.  But, in the year 2000 TIDs took off.  The next decade saw the creation of 82 districts!

Now, in 2016 there are 157 districts in 11 states across the United States.   Most recently, the first districts were created in the states of Tennessee (Memphis) and Kansas (Wichita).  In 2014, the concept even grew internationally to Scotland and England, where there are an additional three districts.

Today

Today, TIDs are at the front and center of destination marketing.  The 160 districts across the globe raise $312 million each year for destination marketing.  The economic impacts are nearly incalculable.  From hotel revenue that fuels job creation, to tax revenue, to the amounts visitors spend at attractions, restaurants and traveling – the impacts are endless.  One study found that for every dollar raised by a TID, there is a $70 return for the economy.  Consider that $70 economic return – and the $312 million spent by TIDs – and you get a global economic return of $22 billion.  And with a return on investment for hotels ranging from 4:1 all the way to 20:1, that’s a return of at least $1.2 billion just for hotels.  Not too bad for a humble little concept from West Hollywood.

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