Op-Ed

Miami Beach still needs a Convention Center hotel

A rendering of the proposed 800-room convention center hotel in Miami Beach that voters turned down.
A rendering of the proposed 800-room convention center hotel in Miami Beach that voters turned down.

There has been much debate over the years regarding the need for the Miami Beach Convention Center Headquarter Hotel. The answer to that question is an unequivocal Yes.

Over the last six years we have been implementing a three-step plan to improve the convention component of our diverse tourism industry. To continue to realize the success we have grown accustomed to, we need to continually reassess all market segments, including the convention market.

Our first step in the plan was to modernize our center that was last renovated in the 1980s. The outdated center has been relegated to hosting trade and consumer shows that create more traffic and spend less in our hotels, restaurants and shops.

We are thankful that the residents and city and county leadership recognized the need to modernize the center and funded the initiative.

Step 1 is well under way, and we will now have a competitive center to host virtually any type of convention, assuming that we also complete the second step!

Step 2 in the plan is to develop an 800-room convention hotel.

Convention planners require an on-site headquarters hotel before they even consider booking a convention center. Every national competitor has an adjacent or attached hotel; many have more than one. Tampa built its hotel in the 1990s. West Palm recently opened a 400-room Hilton. Fort Lauderdale is in an RFP process to develop their hotel.

Every city in the United States that books citywide conventions has one — period. Thinking you can operate a convention center without a convention hotel is like trying to sell airplanes without seats.

The third step that is under way is the reengineering of our citywide convention marketing efforts, given our modern convention center and HQ hotel.

Our focus is on smaller conventions (3,000-5,000 in attendance), that are compatible with our hotel rates, occur in lower occupancy periods, and have the minimal impact on traffic.

With the thousands of new hotel rooms already built and more on the way both in Miami Beach and Miami, we believe that with the right type of events, our hotel community will provide the room blocks required to host the event.

Keep in mind that the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association supported the new Headquarter Hotel.

The agreement the city of Miami Beach made with Portman Holdings to develop the hotel was on target.

It was 100 percent privately financed, prohibited gambling, required rooms to be available for citywide conventions and paid the city a fair rent for the land.

Nowhere else in the United States has a city negotiated such a favorable deal.

We are hopeful the city will further consider the Portman proposal, making any modifications required to gain broader support.

Do we need a hotel adjacent to our Convention Center? Yes.

Michael S. Goldberg is chairman of the Miami Beach Convention Center Advisory Board and chairman of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. Bruce Orosz is chairman of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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