City Councilor Lydia Edward’s push to create the first ever tourism marketing district for Boston and Cambridge passed the City Council unanimously last week.
The effort that was cosponsored by Councilor Frank Baker, will permit hotels in Boston and Cambridge to assess members of the district a fee that will be directly reinvested back into tourism, similar to a business improvement district.
The estimated $10 million investment in the first year of the newly created district will promote tourism in Boston and Cambridge, help beautify and maintain green and open spaces in the two cities, increase supplier diversity, and create a reserve fund to help the tourism industry weather economic downturns.
“Boston and Cambridge are the first cities to create a Tourism Marketing District under this new state law,” said Edwards. “I’m honored to have cosponsored its creation with Councilor Frank Baker. This tourism district will help promote our neighborhood’s restaurants, museums and restaurants to visitors. East Boston is a gem. The money raised by this district plan will be put to good use by maintaining our open spaces like the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway, beautification efforts and hopefully tree lights and other holiday celebrations.”
Ahead of the vote last week the new district was approved by Cambridge and only required Boston City Council approval for creation.
The Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau partnered with Edwards to create the distinct and the plan sets forth the services, programs, budget, assessment structure, criteria for businesses, management, and committee for the area.
Edwards said the new district will be a crucial part of a strong economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourism industry and its employees have been some of the hardest hit during this pandemic. The tourism industry disproportionately employs women and people of color at much higher rates than other industries, and is often a stepping stone for meaningful wages and union membership.
“What we’re about to do which is make history again in the City of Boston,” said Edwards at last week’s Council hearing. Edwards Chair’s the Council’s Committee on Government Operations. “This tourism destination and marketing district plan and petition is something that is necessary and vital to us in the face of recovery. We need to compete with other cities. We need to demonstrate and market our city as a beautiful place for people to come spend time, spend money and get to know this beautiful city. I am honored to represent one of the downtown neighborhoods of the North End, where on an annual basis before the pandemic we had up to 2 million people coming in that third of a square mile. So we understand that tourism is vital to our economy, but so are good neighbors (like Cambridge). Having good neighbors coming together to make sure our neighborhoods thrive, that workers have good jobs and all aspects of Boston–all of our neighborhoods–share in this wonderful recovery and all of the benefits that come from it. It is a historic day in that we have not just Boston, we have the City of Cambridge, and we have the state house, all on the same page. It was great to see all of that happen, and the excitement behind it.”
The assessed fees of members of the district are projected to be up to $10.5 million annually.
Councilor Baker, Chair of the Committee on Arts, Culture, Tourism and Special Events said It was long past due to start spending some money on promoting the cities of Boston and Cambridge.
“It’s about the time that we started celebrating what we are and how much we can do and help the industry that was absolutely killed this year,” said Baker. “Last year hotels pre-pandemic were around 90% (capacity) and last year they were only around 20%. We need to promote and support this industry and I’m proud to stand here and say that we’re going to do that with this petition.”