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Miami-Dade tourism got ‘knocked down’ in 2017. But things are looking up for next year

Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau chairman Bruce Orosz, El Al president and CEO David Maimon and GMCVB president and CEO William D. Talbert, III, at the tourism bureau’s annual meeting, Wednesday, November 1, at the Loews Miami Beach hotel.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau chairman Bruce Orosz, El Al president and CEO David Maimon and GMCVB president and CEO William D. Talbert, III, at the tourism bureau’s annual meeting, Wednesday, November 1, at the Loews Miami Beach hotel. Greater Miami Convnetion & Visitors Bureau

The soundtrack to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau annual meeting Wednesday said it all: “I get knocked down, and I get up again.”

The tourism bureau opened its meeting on the state of the industry with the acknowledgment that it’s really been a tough year for Miami-Dade County tourism.

“The theme today is about resilience,” said William D. Talbert, III, president and CEO of the county’s tourism marketing arm.

The theme today is about resilience.

William D. Talbert, III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Talbert kicked off the meeting by listing the barrage of challenges the destination faced in the last year: Zika, the growth of the short-term rental industry, the dropoff in business from the region’s No. 1 international market, Brazil, and, most recently, Hurricane Irma.

Still, Miami-Dade was able to just squeak by with positive growth in visitorship, tourist expenditures, and room nights sold, though it’s not quite the usual increase the county typically experiences year over year — the destination has averaged 2 to 4 percent growth in key measures over the past 10 years, the bureau said.

Florida governor Rick Scott announces record tourist visits for early 2017 at Jungle Island on May 15, 2017.Gov. Rick Scott touted record tourism in Florida during the first quarter of 2017 as he considers vetoing a dramatic cut to the state’s tou

Here is how this year’s numbers break down:

▪ Overnight visitors spent $26 billion from September 2016 to August 2017, a record and an increase of 2 percent over the same time last year.

15.9 million Number of visitors to Miami-Dade between September 2016 and August 2017, a record over the same time last year

▪ In that time period, 15.9 million visitors traveled to Miami-Dade, representing a slight increase of 0.5 percent from the previous year.

▪ The number of jobs in the tourism sector grew by 3.9 percent from from September 2016 to August 2017.

▪ International arrivals to Miami International Airport were up 1.2 percent in that time period from the same months the year prior. Travel from Brazil, Miami’s No. 1 international market, declined steeply by about 25 percent, Talbert said, but growth in travel from Germany (by 14.1 percent), Argentina (10 percent) and Colombia (5.9 percent) helped to offset the loses. In terms of overnight international visitors, that figure grew by 3.1 percent from the same time the previous year.

(September 2017 is not included in these figures because it typically takes 45 days after the end of the month to calculate the data based on the bureau’s models, said Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer for the bureau.)

▪ From October 2016 to September 2017, room nights sold in Miami-Dade grew 1.8 percent over the same time last year.

▪ A record-breaking 5.3 million passengers sailed through PortMiami between October 2016 and September 2017.

[This year’s growth] speaks to the Miami brand’s resiliency and nods to why more than ever, we will continue global marketing programs to protect and grow our market share.

William D. Talbert, III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

“[This year’s growth] speaks to the Miami brand’s resiliency and nods to why more than ever, we will continue global marketing programs to protect and grow our market share,” said Talbert said in a statement.

“We got headwinds, now we’ve got tail winds,” he added in an interview.

Talbert said 2018 is looking up, thanks in part to the return of Brazil, which “bottomed out,” but is coming back, and to new regulations for short-term rental hosts in unincorporated Miami-Dade.

“We created a great law,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman, who sponsored the new ordinance, at the event. “Our industry is not against competition, but we need to establish a legitimate and purposeful policy. San Francisco and Louisiana and other places that we looked at [to model our new policy] are now looking at ours.”

The upcoming completion of the Miami Beach Convention Center, set for September, will likely boost visitorship in the coming year too, Talbert said.

The convention center project has “built up a lot of momentum” among prospective clients, said Aedo.

It’s kind of like the faucet has been opened...our wanting was the convention center and now we have filled that significant gap.

Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer for the tourism bureau

“It’s kind of like the faucet has been opened...our wanting was the convention center and now we have filled that significant gap,” he said.

The bureau is still banking on also being able to secure a convention center hotel plan that voters will approve after the initial plan failed to pass last year. The bureau believes an adjacent headquarter hotel for the convention center will incentivize larger groups in the medical and technology fields to bring city-wide conventions to Miami Beach.

Also on the marketing agency’s radar is continuing to add air service.

Much of Wednesday’s meeting focused on celebrating Miami International Airport’s new route from Israeli airline El Al from Miami-Tel Aviv route, one of only six routes the airline offers into the United States. The new flights kicked off Wednesday, as well. But now with El Al under its belt, Miami-Dade’s tourism leaders are eying service to Asia more closely. MIA convened the Asia Task Force to woo Asian carriers in 2015, but no deal has been struck yet.

While it’s still unknown when that accord may be reached, Talbert said he expects it will likely be a Miami-Tokyo route via Japan Airlines.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

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