Miami Beach hotels sold out for Art Basel
By Sherri C. Ranta
Hotels within a walk of Miami Beach Convention Center sold out months ago to art lovers expected to arrive Dec. 2-5 for Art Basel, the Swiss international art show.
"This is a major, major event with a major impact on this community. Historically, it comes during a weak period - the week after Thanksgiving. Now you can't get a room at a beach hotel," said Stuart Blumberg, president of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association.
The 30-year-old art show that originated in Basel, Switzerland, first opened on Miami Beach three years ago. Published reports, Mr. Blumberg said, say the show is under contract to return for another three years.
"We're dealing with a very sophisticated customer in the art world," he said. "This brings a level of customer that normally wouldn't come here. I think that speaks well to the fact that several luxury hotels have been added to the inventory since 1999 - Mandarin, Ritz-Carlton. It just fits."
About 30,000 people bought tickets for the show last year, said Bob Goodman of Garber and Goodman Advertising Inc., Art Basel's Miami spokesman. "The buzz and interest and calls and e-mails indicate it will be as big and successful as last year," he said.
Turon Travel of New York contracted for a block of rooms at 25 beach hotels and a few luxury brands including Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons in Miami and Biltmore in Coral Gables.
All high-end hotels within walking distance of the convention center - such as Delano, Loews, Raleigh, Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Sagamore and Shore Club - are sold out, said Demetra Prattas of Turon Travel.
"There is a large international group that's coming from everywhere around the world - South America, Japan, lots of Europeans. The difference is there are more requests from what we can tell going through our office," said Ms. Prattas. "More people are visiting this year than last year."
She said guests booked earlier this year than they did two years ago. They're making reservations for Miami shortly after seeing the Swiss show in June. "Since one feeds the other," Ms. Prattas said, "they want to visit the others."
Sagamore hotel manager Brett J. Blass said the 93-suite hotel at 1671 Collins Ave. is one of the leading art hotels on the beach. Sagamore owners Marty and Christine Taplin filled the hotel with a huge private collection.
"It's fantastic for us each year," he said. "We have a big Saturday invitation-only brunch. Art Basel seems to get bigger" each year.
Dennis Leyva, Miami Beach staff liaison to Art Basel, said the festival gets bigger each year and brings public attention to the city.
"The New York Times is doing a section on Miami Beach in its Thursday Escape section, telling about which hotels to stay in, what nightclubs to go to, where to eat," he said. "That type of exposure that we get you can't buy."
Art critics from the Times are expected to join other media personnel for the show, he said. Art Basel officials say 700 members of the media were credentialed last year.
The synergy created by Art Basel gave birth to a new show, Wine and Spirits Expo of the Americas, scheduled for Dec. 3-5 at Miami Beach Convention Center, said Ed Hurley of Resource Plus Shows and Events.
Officials with the Americas Food and Beverage Show, an industry trade show, meet in the convention center the same week as Art Basel, he said. They wanted to add a wine component that would be open to the public.
Winemakers from around the world, celebrity chefs, a Miami restaurant row and musical entertainment are scheduled to correspond with the event.