TOURISM

Tourism bureau to focus on convention center, service

 
 
This screen grab shows the new website for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
This screen grab shows the new website for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

hsampson@MiamiHerald.com

After years of record-setting tourism numbers, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau is trying to keep the momentum going.

Its plan, to be unveiled at the group’s annual meeting Friday at a South Beach nightclub, calls for renewed focus on some basics:

• Upgrading the Miami Beach Convention Center and adding a headquarter hotel.

• Improving ground transportation options — especially taxis.

Boosting customer service overall.

• Increasing sales and marketing programs targeted at international travelers as well as niche domestic groups.

• Expanding digital sales and marketing efforts.

The plan came out of a year’s worth of research that included town hall meetings, an online survey, and input from industry stakeholders.

“At the end of the day, if we are successful in these five areas, we will continue to add records,” said William Talbert III, the bureau’s president and CEO.

The bureau will announce Friday that it welcomed more than 14 million people in a 12-month stretch for the first time. In 2012, 13.9 million people visited Miami-Dade.

Talbert said the industry has made it clear that a modernized convention center in Miami Beach with an on-site hotel is crucial to drawing major groups.

Community leaders have been working on the issue for years; the most recent setback was a state appeals court decision in September that struck down a planned referendum on renovating the center. But Talbert, who worked successfully to get voters to increase the city’s resort tax in order to pay for improvements last year, said he and others in the hospitality industry will continue to press for the project.

“Failure is not an option on this,” he said.

The bureau is expanding its customer-service training program in partnership with Miami International Airport and Miami Dade College’s Center for Service Excellence. Airport employees will have the option to take an hour of training a week for four weeks and earn certification, which will come with some benefits such as discounts at attractions or restaurants. That program could be replicated outside MIA, said Rolando Aedo, the bureau’s chief marketing officer.

Aedo said the bureau is also working with the county on an enhanced customer-service curriculum for cab drivers.

The organization is supporting several ordinances that would seek to improve taxis in Miami-Dade by requiring newer vehicles, better training, and machines that accept credit cards.

To attract more customers internationally, the bureau is launching new tailored websites and increasing sales activity. Aedo said plans are also in the works to market Miami as a vacation spot for travelers going to the World Cup in Brazil next year — a “two-nation vacation.”

The tourism agency will also expand its efforts to draw Hispanic, African-American, and gay and lesbian travelers from the U.S. by focusing on heritage and cultural offerings.

To that end, Friday’s meeting will feature, among other things, a screening of the new Nike ad that shows LeBron James and an adoring crowd bicycling through diverse Miami-Dade neighborhoods.

“LeBron went to Little Havana, we’re going to Little Havana,” Aedo said.

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