Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and destinations working in harmony
26th October 2015
How can BIDS and destination management work in harmony? The basic goal of most BIDs is to create a thriving and profitable local visitor economy and destination; be that a town, historic town, seaside destination or other type of centre. This is achieved by increasing visitor numbers to the area, increasing the level of visitor spend and improving the economic and, in certain cases, the physical infrastructure of a defined area.
Destination management takes a view of a place supporting and persuading a partnership to attract visitors and ensure that they stay longer, spend more and they recommend to others and return.
So here we have two types of organisation in many respects aiming for the same outcomes but independently of each other; not always but many places do still have these separate and distinct functions.
Now throw into the mix a recurring story that several DMO’s and destinations are faced with funding cuts for destination management functions therefore creating an income gap.
This is where I believe the harmony could begin.
Business Improvement Districts could help in the continuation of the work of destination organisation. They might not be able to fill your funding gap but co-managing or investing in your legacy projects may fit with their strategic plans. BIDs are a good option for destination groups and managers; they are a stable partner to undertake, for example, destination marketing programmes. By integrating elements of both strategies for their place, it could be that by working together to enhance their activity and co-ordinate their communications, they can achieve a stronger partnership for the business community and their need to see increased economic activity.
Let’s look at an example – Lincoln BIG, operational for over ten years.
The BID in Lincoln has a simple vision, which is:
“From physical visitor information to engaging websites, Lincoln BIG is making Lincoln a great place to visit by supporting the visitor economy.”
Lincoln BIG operates the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) under a service level agreement with the City of Lincoln. Since taking on the operation in 2010 they have significantly increased opening hours from five to eight, increased retail turnover by 150% and secured an increase in visitors by 50% from 93,000 to 176,000 per annum.
However their support in terms of the development of tourism in the city goes well beyond the VIC. They have also invested in the visitor experience with the reintroduction of an open-top tour bus service which they run successfully with Stagecoach Lincolnshire - one of their investor members. Through their tourism activities they now employ two full-time staff and up to twenty part-time and casual staff including city guides.
Plans underway include the expansion of their Ambassador programme, utilising trained volunteers to assist visitors to navigate the city centre at key events.
In recognition of the importance of tourism to the city, Lincoln BIG was one of the founders of the Visit Lincoln Partnership (VLP), which they formed with Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce, the City of Lincoln Council and other stakeholders in 2011.
Since then, Lincoln BIG has provided the investment of more than £100,000 in the development of the city’s official visitor website - visitlincoln.com. This includes the secondment of a full-time Digital Marketing Co-ordinator who ensures the content is up to date, interesting and informative. Social media channels are also fully utilised in the promotion and marketing of the city.
BIDs and destination management have shared goals and can work in harmony together with incredible results, Lincoln is only one example of this. As continued pressures on budgets emerge now is the time to consider alliances with BIDs to further your goals jointly; a strong alliance I have witnessed over the years can make a huge difference in the success of destination.
On the 24th November, 2015 I will be presenting at the TMI conference about this topic, I hope you can attend.
About the author
Mark Ross, a Business Improvement District manager and business consultant with many years of experience in a wide variety of towns, is the Association of Town & City Management's BID programme manager. He has run BID programmes in Swindon, Oldham and Mansfield. More recently, he served as one of the special advisors, on ATCM's Town Team Support programme covering the East of England. Find out more about Mark and the rest of the speakers at this year's TMI Annual Covention, the event for destination managmeent professionals, visit https://www.tmi.org.uk/event/2/tmi-annual-convention-2015.htm