Steve Adkins worked in banking for more than two decades, including roles in corporate finance, where “we built our relationships personally.”
As the industry changed, that personal touch disappeared. And so Adkins, a native of San Diego who had attended college and spent his career there, decided to move to South Beach to pursue a career in something that requires personal engagement: hospitality.
He bought a bed and breakfast in 1999, the Jefferson House, and woke up every morning at 5 a.m. to cook breakfast for his guests. He sold the property in 2005.
“It was an amazing experience, however exhausting,” said Adkins, 56. “Everyone’s dream is to open a bed and breakfast. Be careful what you wish for.”
After buying the property, which attracted gay and lesbian travelers, he maintained the previous owner’s membership in the organization that preceded the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Adkins was concerned that the Miami Beach-based nonprofit wasn’t participating in many activities or involving large corporations. He became president of the organization, which had about 50 paid members, in 2006. Now the membership count tops 700.
Adkins was appointed to the Miami Beach Visitor & Convention Authority (VCA), which awards grants funded by city resort taxes to tourism-driving events, in January of 2009. He became chairman in February and will serve until 2015, his last year on the advisory panel.
Q. What are your priorities at the VCA for your term as chair?
A. The VCA has always served as a beacon of cultural programming in Miami Beach. My goal is to continue that practice, overseeing the grant-making process, ensuring that a wide range of organizations are bringing interesting, fun, fascinating, and entertaining arts and cultural events to the residents and visitors of Miami Beach.
In addition, we want to work with outside agencies and groups to identify how we can keep moving brand Miami Beach forward from city hall to the botanical gardens. This city is on the brink of immense growth and opportunities, and I want to make the MBVCA a conduit and resource for residents, visitors, developers and businesspeople to help the city evolve and progress in the right direction.
Q. How much of a role does the state of the Miami Beach Convention Center (and well-publicized efforts to update it) play in the VCA’s efforts to bring events, festivals and other activities to the city?
A. The Miami Beach Convention Center is still a viable, safe and flexible facility for many event organizers who continue to bring their art fairs, music productions, home and boat shows, and other world-class happenings to the Center. We welcome updates and renovations to the convention center in the future, as I’m sure it will enhance and augment our ability to bring even more hotel-room bookings and other ancillary economic growth to our city.
Q. Are there certain events you think Miami Beach is missing out on, either because of the convention center or for other reasons? What, if anything, can the VCA do to address those issues?
A. As part of our annual planning process, we are always looking for new opportunities to bring new events to Miami Beach. There are so many great ideas we have looked at that do not rely on having the convention center available. However, we have publicly voiced our support about having the best convention center possible.
Q. With all the recent debate over whether Ultra is an appropriate festival to have in downtown Miami, do you believe there are events that are simply not suited for busy metro areas such as Miami or Miami Beach?
A. Each city has to weigh the benefits (economic, visibility, etc.) of hosting high-profile events against the welfare of its citizens. I am all for compromise and am hopeful that a viable solution can be found whenever an event outgrows the original venue/location.
Q. In your role as head of the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, you’re involved in marketing the destination to LGBT travelers. Do you think the destination does enough to draw that demographic, and what do you think it could do better?
A. The chamber has wonderful partners in marketing our destination as an inclusive and thriving LGBT destination. From the VCA to the GMCVB to the city of Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County, each have provided resources and funds to ensure that our message resonates around the world that Greater Miami and Miami Beach is an attractive and frequent destination for the gay market.
Q. What other groups are still relatively untapped in terms of destination marketing efforts?
A. We have found amazing opportunities while expanding the footprint of existing events we fund. For example, arts and culture events have exploded all over Miami-Dade from our original funding of Art Basel. I think the same is happening with food and sports. With the World Cup, Miami is currently marketing itself as a viable satellite fly-in location for some of the Brazilian locations. I think these “outside-the-box” opportunities, marketing Miami and Miami Beach as South American destination hubs, will position us well into the future.
Q. What impact do you think the legalization of gay marriage would have on tourism in Florida? Do you think the state (and especially South Florida) is losing out on a lot of potential business?
A. The potential is off the charts. All of us understand tremendous economic value associated with the wedding market. Florida (and South Florida, specifically) needs to move progressively on two fronts: gay marriage and inclusive ENDA legislation (where you cannot be fired from your job for being gay).
Q. You must spend a lot of time in Miami Beach in your job and volunteer roles; what’s your favorite place for a business lunch?
A. On Miami Beach, Front Porch and 11th St. Diner.