Tourism & Cruises

Miami tourism bureau’s goal: maintaining momentum

CENTENNIAL PLANS REV UP: A choir sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to Miami Beach as Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine applauds during the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau’s annual meeting at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on Monday. The official 100th birthday is next year, but will be well underway the next time the GMC&VB has its annual meeting.
CENTENNIAL PLANS REV UP: A choir sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to Miami Beach as Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine applauds during the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau’s annual meeting at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on Monday. The official 100th birthday is next year, but will be well underway the next time the GMC&VB has its annual meeting. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau hailed its records — and looked forward to breaking them — at its annual meeting Monday.

More than 500 people attended the event at the Pérez Art Museum Miami downtown.

During a presentation, bureau president and CEO William Talbert III said that through the end of August, 9.7million people had visited Miami-Dade — an increase of 1.3 percent compared to last year, when a record 14.2million people came to the county.

“We’ve had records upon records upon records upon records,” he said.

Incoming board chairman Bruce Orosz, president of ACT Productions, highlighted some of his priorities to keep the momentum going, including using major sports events to drum up tourism, encouraging the growth of health and wellness-related visits and restoring incentives for the film and television industry in Florida.

“Our greatest challenge here is clearly to sustain the success that we all feel,” Orosz said.

Talbert took up the issue of ride-for-hire companies such as Uber and Lyft — which are operating illegally in the county — saying he and other business groups plan to attend a meeting in November urging county commissioners to allow legal operations.

“Why in the world wouldn’t we have something the rest of the world would have?” he said. “We need to give the traveling public as many options as they can get.”

But he cheered the progress of the Miami Beach Convention Center renovation, a longtime priority of the bureau.

“As long as we’ve waited, you’ve really gone at breakneck speed,” he told Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who was elected last year. Talbert said major groups have already agreed to hold their meetings at the updated center in 2018 and 2020. More commission approvals are ahead, but the timeline calls for construction to start after Art Basel Miami Beach in December of 2015 and wrap up in 2017.

“It’s going to be spectacular,” Levine said. “It’s high tech, it’s hip, it’s cool.”

He also shared plans for the city’s centennial celebration in March, and got a birthday cake and rousing version of Happy Birthday from the Miami Mass Choir.

Festivities aside, the bureau is continuing to broaden its focus to highlight neighborhoods such as Little Haiti, Little Havana and Historic Overtown.

“All of us here know that Miami is much more than South Beach and downtown,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who lauded efforts to attract more visitors throughout the county.

Joining programs including Miami Spice, Miami Spa Month, and Miami Attractions Month, December will be Miami Heritage Month. One of the key features will be Art of Black Miami, which will highlight Caribbean and African American art in a stretch when international focus is on the destination for Art Basel Miami Beach.

Carole Ann Taylor, a businesswoman who chairs the bureau’s Heritage Committee and Black Hospitality Initiative, said December will be a month “where we celebrate the neighborhoods, the businesses in those neighborhoods and look to bring people into our neighborhoods.”

Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.

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