Tourism & Cruises

Miami tourism broke records in 2018. Here’s why officials think 2019 will be even bigger.

More than 16.5 million overnight visitors came to Miami last year, dropping $18 billion into the local coffers. That’s a 3.5 percent increase in visitors from 2017, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau reported this week. The visitor figures represent continuous growth over the past decade.

In addition, 6.8 million day-trippers hit town — on their way to cruises, or to hang on Miami Beach — bringing the total number of visitors to 23.3 million. This is the first time the CVB has counted day visitors.

International tourists from Latin America continue to be Miami’s most frequent visitors, with Brazil, Argentina and Colombia ranking as top source markets. Domestically, New York provides more overnight visitors to Miami than any other state. Most tourists who visit Miami for the day are Florida residents.

Tourists spent $18 billion in Miami in 2018, a decrease from $26 billion in 2017. Whether this represents a true drop in spending is unclear; the data company that worked with the CVB to gather the 2018 information used a different methodology than that used in the past, the Bureau said.

Most overnight visitors in 2018 stayed in hotels versus short-term rentals or with friends. The average occupancy rate in Miami-Dade hotels grew to 76.7%, up slightly from 2017. Miami Beach was the most popular area to stay among tourists, followed by the airport area and downtown.

In addition, visitors had several new ways to get to Miami. Airlines added new routes in 2018, including flights to islands Bimini and Bonaire, and to Savannah, Georgia.

A long-wanted direct flight to Tokyo on Japan Airlines has not yet come to fruition, the bureau reported. A spokesperson for the CVB said Miami hopes to get a commitment from the airline for next year.

The CVB expects to see more visitors this year thanks to the renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center, which reopened in October 2018.

The Bureau plans 15 town hall meetings across the county this month as it develops a marketing strategy for Miami tourism for the next five years; the plan is due for unveiling in the fall.

A previous version of this story incorrectly named Morocco as a direct flight added from Miami in 2018. The Morocco flight was added in 2019.

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Taylor Dolven covers the tourism industry at the Miami Herald, where she aims to tell stories about the people who work in tourism and the people who enjoy it. Previously, she worked at Vice News in Brooklyn, NY, where she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of NY for a national investigation of police shootings.