BIDs: the only new show in town?

The BID movement began in North America in the early 70s. It crossed the Atlantic about 10 years ago and there are now some 250 BIDs in the UK with operational budgets that can range from £100,000pa to well over £1m pa, depending on their size.

These budgets are free of political control as BID incomes are derived from a small increase (usually 1.5%-2%) in business rates that are collected from every business occupier within a defined BID area.

BIDs gained momentum in urban America in 70s where the poor management, maintenance and policing of city centres was creating a decline in property values, civic infrastructure and what we now call the visitor economy.

Around that time a small business community in the Bloor Street neighbourhood of Toronto hit rock bottom and businesses created an association for the improvement of their district and began fundraising across the area. Some declined to contribute, despite clearly benefiting from the work it was doing. This led to the Bloor Street Business Association pressing the Ontario government to introduce legislation to compel all business occupiers within the area to contribute according to their ability, measured by the rateable value of their property.

Thus, in 1970, the world’s first BID, called the Bloor West Village BID, began life with an operational budget of around £240,000pa in today’s values. It’s still there, positioning the area as ‘A Small Village in a Big City’ and its current BID income is in the region of £650,000pa.

There are now 72 BIDs at work in New York and some would say they played a major role in saving the city.

BIDs are designed to respond to local circumstances and this has led to a range of BID concepts in the UK.

We have Town Centre Bids, Retail Centre BIDs, Commercial Estate BIDs, Leisure BIDs, Mixed Use BIDs and even a Flood Defence BID (the Lower Don Valley, Sheffield). There are five specialist Tourism BIDs (TBIDs), including Visit Inverness and Loch Ness TBID, the Bournemouth Coastal TBID, the English Riviera TBID, the Visit Isle of Wight TBID and the Greater Yarmouth TBID.

The average TBID levy income is £400k pa and the range of activities they fund include: destination websites, image libraries, social media, digital marketing campaigns and representation at trade shows.

TBIDs support, and are supported by, their local tourist industry in all its forms. So, how about a group of MICE-related businesses taking this a step further and getting together to create a Conference and Business Tourism BID?

Martin Fullard


Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard: journalist, presenter, producer. Martin is the Deputy Editor at Conference News and Conference & Meetings World magazines. He leads the digital channels on Mash Media’s Conference Division as well as heading up Mash TV. He is formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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