Miami-Dade County sees record tourism in 2012

Despite economic ennui in Europe and hiccups in the recovery from recession in the United States, more tourists than ever before visited Miami-Dade County last year.

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau on Monday announced that the county welcomed 13.9 million overnight visitors in 2012, a 3.5 percent increase compared to the previous year.

Miami-Dade’s success in 2012 follows announcements already made by the state and Broward, which both saw increases. An estimated 89.3 million tourists visited Florida last year, up 2.3 percent; Broward reported more than 12 million visitors, an increase of nearly 9 percent.

In Miami, Brazil remained the top source market, with the number of visitors increasing 9 percent. Overall, international visitor numbers increased 5.2 percent to 6.8 million, while the number of domestic travelers nudged up 1.8 percent to 7.1 million people.

Last year was the third in a row that saw a record number of overnight visitors in Miami. Spending also broke new ground: Visitors spent a record $21.8 billion in 2012, a 5.1 percent increase over 2011.

William Talbert III, president and CEO of the tourism bureau, pointed to aggressive marketing programs such as the “It’s So Miami” brand campaign that kicked off in July and the addition of Miami Film Month and Miami Golf Month to attract more visitors. The bureau also added marketing efforts in five cities in Brazil that American Airlines now serves from Miami.

Talbert had little to say about a major tourism-related issue brewing: efforts by the Miami Dolphins to get mainland hotel taxes raised to help pay for upgrades to Sun Life Stadium. The team has argued that it needs the renovations, which would also be paid for in part by owner Stephen Ross, to land the 2016 or 2017 Super Bowl.

The bureau is working on a Super Bowl bid, due April 1, Talbert said. He would not say whether that bid would include Presidents’ Day weekend, when the Miami International Boat Show is also in town.

While not discounting the importance of the Super Bowl, which fills hotel rooms at high rates, Talbert pointed out that last year didn’t need one.

“In 2012, we had record numbers, and there was not a Super Bowl,” he said.

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