Tourism officials hit TV to combat summer blahs
By Claudio Mendonça
With summer approaching, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau is planning to blast a TV ad campaign to attract in-state tourists - and their dollars - from five markets.
In the first months of 2005, the bureau visited 44 cities in other states to promote this year's summer season, which it defines as beginning in May. Starting June 6, the bureau will spend $300,000 to draw other Florida residents.
Named Vacation In Your Own Backyard, the campaign may indicate a change in marketing strategy. Greater Miami tourism officials usually focus on long-distance travelers, with statistics showing only 6% of visitors drive here.
Bureau President William Talbert said his staff is still working to lure visitors from abroad but is trying to cope with growing restrictions on visas for international tourists. In recent years, he said, 50% of tourists have come from abroad.
Mr. Talbert said the bureau is negotiating with the US Department of Homeland Security to ease visa requirements on international visitors.
"There is not a proper balance in the screening process," said Mr. Talbert. "We hear stories of bankers from South America not being allowed in the country. These are people doing business here, and the message we are sending is that they are not welcome."
Mr. Talbert said meetings and conventions are equally as important to the local economy as leisure travel.
Miami-Dade County will host several business events this summer, he said, including a conference for Meeting Professionals International in Miami Beach in July, a Sunglass Hut-sponsored swimwear fashion show July 16, the MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 28 and the third Miami Spice restaurant promotion during the same month.
"Members participating in restaurant month have been successful," said David Kelsey, president of the South Beach Hotel & Restaurant association. "The only problem is that it is just aimed at upscale restaurants."
The summer period, known as the low season, runs from April to September. Mr. Kelsey said hotel revenues dip 40% during that period.
In 2003, tourism revenues during the offseason were $11.7 million but $13.8 million in 2004, bureau officials said.
Still, annual tourism numbers are on the rise.
"The key to success has been a strong partnership with the entire tourism industry," said Mr. Talbert.
Miami-Dade County is setting records for convention and development tax collection, which bureau officials call the barometer for measuring hotel occupancy. The convention and development surcharge is 3% on all hotels' room rates in Miami-Dade County with the exception of those in Surfside and Bal Harbour.
According to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, in the first three months this year, the county grossed $13.7 million in convention-development tax revenues, compared to $11.6 million in 2004, an 18.5% change. In April, numbers continued to rise with hotel revenues ringing up $5.1 million for the month.
Bill Anderson, the bureau's director of planning and research said Tuesday, "This is the best quarter we've ever had."