Almost all hotels in county are open for business
By Claudio Mendonça
Almost all of Miami-Dade hotels - 99% - are open following Hurricane Wilma, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau announced Tuesday as it set out to announce globally that the community is open for travelers.
One of the few hotels still in recovery is the Conrad Miami Hotel on Brickell Avenue, which is expected to open Monday, according to Lisa Cole, a spokeswoman for parent Hilton Hotels.
As peak season approaches, the convention bureau's task is to spread the word that Miami is back in business.
With Brazil being one of Miami's biggest tourist markets, bureau CEO William Talbert III flew to Rio de Janeiro last weekend to attend Brazil's national travel agents conference. On Nov. 9, Mr. Talbert and his staff will be in New York with at least 100 media representatives to tell the rest of the country that Miami hotels are operating as normal. On Nov. 14, he will head to London to the World Travel Market, one of Europe's largest travel industry events.
During the days following the storm, Miami was able to hold two 1,000-person conventions - the Scoliosis Research Society's 40th annual meeting and the sixth annual cardiovascular conference. The cardiovascular conference was originally scheduled for New Orleans but displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
"We arrived in Miami that week expecting a mild hurricane," said David Allie, conference chairman for the New Cardiovascular Horizons Conference. "We had to make a decision with no power, no gas and no airport. We took the risk but had to cancel the first day of the meeting on a Wednesday. At the end, six weeks of work were very fruitful."
Dr. Allie said that while he was stuck in a hotel for six days, he was in constant communication with Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Mr. Talbert.
Dr. Allie said that for the conference's Thursday opening, he welcomed 400 people and had approximately 1,000 throughout the event, which ended Saturday.
For the heart conference, participants were lodged in four area hotels - InterContinental Miami downtown, a JW Marriott on Brickell Avenue and a Courtyard by Marriott and a Holiday Inn downtown.
"Everything worked out great," said Dr. Allie. "We had live procedures being transmitted from our medical center in Louisiana."
But due to the absence of fuel and power, many local participants couldn't attend, Dr. Allie said. Nevertheless, he said, he would love to return.
"This shows that our community can respond very quickly," said Mr. Talbert. "The biggest evidence that shows we recovered is that we have the South Florida Auto Show at the Miami Beach Convention Center moving forward as planned on Nov. 4."
"The quick opening of the airport was great news," Mr. Talbert said, "because 96% of our customers arrive in Miami by air."