Tourism sets records again last month
By Claudio Mendonça
The NASCAR-Nextel Cup Championship's $146 million impact and 35,000 out-of-town auto-race fans fueled Miami-Dade hotels to occupancy and room-rate records in November.
Countywide, occupancy hit a record 80%, up 11 percentage points from November 2004, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. Statewide, hotels were 67% filled, down 0.8 point, while hotels nationwide were 60% filled, up 5.4 points.
"Eighty percent occupancy we traditionally see in January, February and March," said bureau CEO William Talbert III. "We really had no lingering effect from hurricanes in October."
Rates rose with occupancy, as Miami-Dade hotels averaged $136.61 per room night, compared with the year-earlier $109.74, according to Smith Travel Research Institute in Hendersonville, TN. The average for the rest of Florida was $100, with the rest of the US averaging $91.
"These are impressive numbers," said Ian Freitag, Smith Travel vice president.
NASCAR's Ford 400 Championship Finale, the Food & Beverage Show, the South Florida Auto Show and the Miami International Book Fair spurred November tourism.
Miami will continue to host the Ford 400 weekend for the next 10 years, said Curtis Gray, president of Homestead-Miami Speedway. On the Sunday of the race, the speedway hosts about 75,000 fans, he said, 43% from outside Miami-Dade and Broward.
"The South Florida market is perfect for NASCAR's championship weekend," Mr. Gray said. "We are a championship city."
Locally, airport-area hotels had the highest November occupancy, 86%, followed by Coral Gables hotels, at 85%. Mr. Talbert said most NASCAR corporate sponsors chose airport hotels because of the easy access to the speedway.
Downtown hotels had the greatest November rise, with occupancy up 19 points.