Q. What clued you in that things were getting better? Was there a moment you realized there was a new pattern emerging that made you think people were more comfortable? Or have you not gotten there yet?
We definitely have. We see the confidence is there. We see more people booking more expensive vacations, we see the corporate traveler traveling more. We are there.
Q. Miami has been growing a lot in the last few years its own tourism numbers. Do you have any thoughts about what the destination itself can do to continue that momentum?
Our partners at the bureau do such a fantastic job. They’re so good at what they do. I think that Miami’s an easy sell. Look outside this window, look at the weather. And I think that the diversity of the cultures we have to offer, I think that that attracts so many people. You can go around the world in Latin America by coming to Miami, basically. As to what we can do to continue, I think just what we have been doing until now, promoting ourselves as we have as the best destination there is. We have come a long way in the arts... restaurants, every single major restaurant and chef is in our city, we have the different areas to offer, so it’s not only about the beaches. And also we used to be just about flamingos and beaches and now we’re a great business destination as well. Not too many destinations have the strength in both, and we do.
Q. Do people ask you all the time for travel advice?
All the time.
Q. What kind of questions do people ask you?
You can be at the lane in Publix and have somebody in back of you while you’re waiting. ‘Oh, what do you do. Oh really? When is the best time and the cheapest airfare to Mexico?’ You feel like answering, ‘I don’t have my computer with me.’ Everybody wants value, value value. Even if they can afford it or they can not, I think that this economy has educated everyone on looking for the best value out there.
Q. What’s a place that, say, someone asks you for a recommendation for a honeymoon or an anniversary, a special occasion trip. What’s a place that you know is going to be a winner?
It all depends on what their budgets are. Italy, Florence, all that area. The Amalfi Coast, that’s incredible. I personally love Spain. It depends on the budget people have. Mexico, even though some people really don’t understand that the security issues in Mexico are just in pockets, the country’s so huge, and so big, and there are places that are perfectly safe to go, great values. Mexico’s wonderful. Here in the U.S., we have wonderful places: California, San Francisco — gorgeous. There’s so, so many. And of course, the cruise industry offers a great value as well.
Q. Do you have a most memorable trip that sticks out in your mind?
Yes, and it was driving to the coast up in Spain, the area where Cudillero and all those places are. I’m biased to Spain. And also going to little towns like Toro where my grandfather was born, the winery area there as well.
Q. What about the drive that includes Cudillero — what about that makes it so memorable for you?
The scenery. Spaniards are so friendly and so much fun and you just go to a plaza and everybody from seven on is out there drinking wine and having the best time ever.