County on pace for record tourism numbers
By Claudio Mendonça
Miami-Dade is on pace to set a tourism record as the county chalks up impressive gains in hotel occupancy.
In the first eight months of this year, the county had 7.7 million overnight visitors, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. The record, set last year, is 10.9 million. Maintaining the current pace would bring more than 11.5 million this year.
Hotel occupancy for January-September jumped to 73.4% from 68.2% in the same period last year, catapulting Miami from 10th to sixth place in national rankings.
Miami now trails only Honolulu, New York, Los Angeles, Anaheim, CA, and San Diego in percentage of rooms filled nightly.
Per-night room rates climbed from $115 to $128, moving Miami up from sixth to fourth in the nation behind New York, Honolulu and Washington, DC.
Those advances are tied to heated summer sales that are gradually transforming Miami into a year-round destination, said William Talbert III, convention bureau president and CEO. Summer occupancy soared 7% and room rates 10% from the prior year.
"The increase in visitors is due to a mix of a lot of things but especially to our strength of our summer season," Mr. Talbert said Tuesday. "One of our goals is to take the seasonality out of our marketplace."
Bureau convention sales head Ita Moriarty attributes higher room rates to new high-end hotels. "The influx of upper-scale hotels has helped increase rates in the last two years," she said.
Her department booked 516 conventions in the fiscal year just ended for slightly more than 313,000 room nights, representing a $154.2 million economic impact. For smaller meetings - 100 rooms or less - the bureau booked 440 for 15,220 room nights, generating $12 million.