Study cites need for new hotel on airport grounds
By Eric Kalis
A consultant's conclusion that a new hotel on the grounds of Miami International Airport would be a moneymaker for the airport has led aviation department officials to begin laying plans.
"Ultimately, we found a need for a three-star, four-diamond hotel in Miami International Airport," said Chuck Martinez, principal of Miami hospitality consultant Adelfi, a 2-year-old company paid $150,000 by the aviation department in September to explore construction of a second on-site hotel. "It would have a natural advantage over the hotels in the airport perimeter area."
Mr. Martinez said the company found successful hotels inside the airports in several major cities. A new hotel inside Miami International would be especially convenient for thousands of business travelers, he said. There has been a hotel in Terminal E of the airport since 1959.
"We conducted interviews with current hotels that fit the profile and are part of the competitive set," Mr. Martinez said. "There are similar hotels in cities like Detroit, Hartford, Orlando and Pittsburgh. More airports do not have hotels than those which do, but it is not so rare."
Now, Mr. Martinez said, it is up to airport and county officials to hire a developer and choose a hotel site.
"Our firm prepared a market study, which we presented to the aviation department," Mr. Martinez said. "This was all submitted to the county in January. Now [the project] is at sort of a standstill."
José Abreu, aviation department director, said he hopes to list physical and financial specifics at summer's end and request qualifications in the fall.
For the hotel to become a reality, Mr. Abreu said, the department must seek a private/public partnership to ensure a steady stream of revenue for the airport.
"We want to try to have a pool of investors," he said. "The issue with bringing in a third-party developer is, while it is a great deal for the community, the potential for our income is limited. If we have a partnership with somebody else we can have a share of the rent."
The department in 2004 sought a partnership with a company to refurbish and run the circa 1959 Miami International Airport hotel but failed to gain interest. About 19 companies studied the offer but declined the deal.
Sherwood Weiser, chairman and CEO of Continental Hospitality Holdings, said his company declined after spending $200,000 studying the proposal for the 259-room hotel. The county's terms presented "insurmountable hurdles," he told county officials at the time.
Just where a hotel would rise is uncertain, Mr. Abreu said. "We have not gone into much detail about the physical aspects of the hotel. We have not determined the best part of the airport to build it. By fall we will put a plan on the table."
One location, he said, could be seven acres near the South Terminal parking lot that the Department of Transportation bought for joint development.
"The hotel could be part of that," Mr. Abreu said, "as long as there is sufficient parking."