International visits keep area tourism well as Big Apple sets pace
By Jonathon Gutierrez
International tourists to Miami-Dade County increased in number by 3.1% in 2000, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, which also estimates that more than 5.6 million visited the area in 2000, up from more than 5.4 million in 1999.
Though total international travelers outnumbered domestic, New York City represents the greatest single source of visitors to Miami, sending 950,416 tourists here in 2000, a 3.4% hike compared to 919,200 in 1999.
Most international visitors came from Canada, the bureau said, with 11.2% of tourists to the county. The number of Canadians in the year was up 3.8% to 630,000 people.
The second largest international source of visitors to Miami-Dade is Brazil, with 497,100 visiting in 2000. One attraction for them, said bureau officials, is the Florida Brazil festival, or FLA/BRA, an international arts exchange festival that runs this year from Oct. 3-Nov. 11. Now in its seventh year, organizers said the festival brings in about 10,000 visitors from around the world, in addition to those from South America.
"They come from all over because Miami is a place where people come from everywhere," said Mary Luft, director of Tigertail productions, which organizes FLA/BRA. "If I were doing this in Iowa, it would be very different. This is a city that is very much an international city. It's our gateway to Latin America. This is natural for our area."
In addition to artists from Brazil and Miami, the festival features performers from other countries. For example, "Three faces of Butoh" features dancers from Mexico, Nicaragua and Brazil performing a dance style, butoh, that was developed in Japan following World War II.
Later in the festival, Cuban-born violinist Alfredo Triff performs with Brazilian-born saxophonist Livio Tragtenberg, combining native melodies from each country in one performance.
Other festivals that draw diverse crowds include Art Deco Weekend, a three-day event held in January to celebrate the architecture of Miami and the Beach. It is credited with drawing about 400,000 visitors each year.
The sponsoring Miami Design Preservation League has also gotten worldwide publicity through foreign news outlets, said Herb Sosa, executive director. Since January, he said, it has been featured on news programs in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, and National Geographic and the BBC.
"Part of that is that Art Deco is an international style," Mr. Sosa said. "It's something that a lot of the tourists can relate to all around the world."
Mr. Sosa said the league sees a mix of visitors from across the globe.
"It all depends on the time of year," he said. "Certainly during the summer months we get visitors from Central America and South America. During the winter we get Europe and North American trade. But I can tell you, our demographics are completely across the board. Miami is not attractive to just one demographic group."