Legislation was signed into law this week to promote growth in Oklahoma’s third largest industry, tourism. Senate Bill 1206, by Sen. Eddie Fields and Rep. Gary Banz, authorizes the creation of an additional class of improvement districts within municipalities for tourism purposes including providing marketing services for public or private events, if those events can be reasonably expected to increase occupancy at a hotel or motel within the district.
Fields explained that Improvement Districts have been a key tool for Oklahoma’s cities and neighborhoods to invest in critical improvements. Instead of a broad tax impacting everyone in a city, Improvement Districts allow those who benefit the most to assess themselves to pay for improvements.
“More and more cities across the country are turning to Improvement Districts as a tool to boost their tourism efforts and attract visitors and events to their community,” said Fields, R-Wynona. “Without this type of tool, cities and towns in Oklahoma will increasingly lose out on large events, conferences and tourists, which means lost sales tax for both the state and local communities as well as lost jobs in the tourism, restaurant, hotel and entertainment industries.”
There are currently more than 123 cities in Texas, Montana, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, California, Washington, Oregon, Iowa and Pennsylvania that have used Improvement Districts to invest in their tourism industry and strengthen their local economies, raising over $230 million for destination marketing each year.
The bill had the support of numerous tourism, hotel and marketing associations including the Metro Tulsa Hotel and Lodging Association as well as community welcome centers from around the state, chambers of commerce and other business entities.
The new law will go into effect November 1, 2016.