Tourism district approved for another decade in Great Falls

The Tourism Business Improvement District has been renewed for another decade.

The district includes an assessment on lodging facilities within the district, which is citywide, and commissioners approved an increase on the larger facilities.

Last year, 770,000 visitors came to Great Falls and the average annual spending from visitors is $250 million, or 8 percent of the local economy, according to Rebecca Engum, director of Great Falls Montana Tourism.

The new fee structure begins July 1 and maintains the $1 per night for facilities with 30 or fewer rooms and increase the rate per night to $2 for facilities with 31 or more rooms.

Public hearing on Tuesday for re-creation of tourism district

The TBID is a 10-year special district and the current one runs through Dec. 31, 2018. The new rate would be effective July 1, 2018, which is the start of the next fiscal year.

State law requires that more than 60 percent of property owners within the district support the renewal. Within the TBID, 83 percent of the property owners signed petitions in support of renewing the district.

Tourism agency pursuing district renewal, assessment increase to better attract tourist to Great Falls

No one spoke in opposition to the recreation of the TBID during the Feb. 6 public hearing.

Engum said visitors impact restaurants, gas stations, hotels, grocery stores and more.

“It’s a wide variety of places that get impact from that nonresident spending,” she said.

Over the last eight years, there’s been a 20 percent growth in visitation to the community, but over the last four years, there’s been a decline in that growth, Engum said.

The community is at a crossroads in that tourism’s message as a basecamp for art and adventure resonates with tourists, she said, but that the tourism budget for promoting and marketing the community pales in comparison to peer cities in the region.

The TBID assessment is 75 percent of the tourism agency’s budget and the tier structure with the increased assessment Engum said they’ll be able to ramp up their marketing efforts and drive more tourism to the community, which increases economic activity for a wide variety of local businesses.