Meetings phone blitz creates 41 strong leads; airport hotels up next
By Scott E. Pacheco
Though no meetings or conventions have been confirmed yet as a result of a visitor industry phone blitz last week, it has created 41 strong leads to bring groups — and their dollars — to Miami.
A strong lead means the group said that in the next year its convention needs a destination and that Miami could be considered, said Ita Moriarty, senior vice president of convention sales at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"It was such a positive day," she said, adding that the more-than-900-call blitz also produced 30 additional potential meetings whose organizers wouldn't rule Miami out.
"We concentrated on a lot of summer potential for this year and 2010," Ms. Moriarty said.
Calls produced a range of leads in several markets, with 15 rooms being the smallest group interested while "the majority of these groups that had some open meetings in 2009 and 2010 were between" 75 and 300 peak rooms, which means about 500 people would visit, she said.
The bureau wouldn't release specific names of groups and associations that showed interest because it didn't want to tip off other destinations that those groups are looking for a home for upcoming conventions, officials said.
The positive results of the blitz have provided a "boost" to another group planning its own blitz. An airport task force comprised of about eight properties near Miami International is set to make its case to large conventions on March 25, said Cecilia Orbegazo, director of sales and marketing for Double Tree Miami Mart Airport Hotel & Exhibition Center.
The drive has been in the works since February. Unlike the recent phone blitz, which targeted meetings and conventions of all shapes and sizes, the airport task force is aiming to catch bigger meetings that will allow every property to get a "piece of the pie."
"We're going to be spreading the word that Miami is not just the beach and downtown," she said, adding that the last thing on many people's minds when they think Miami is the airport, despite its close proximity to the other tourist areas.
The drive will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Wyndham Miami Airport Hotel.
"We're targeting associations and corporations that bring the big conventions to Miami," Ms. Orbegazo said.
These include groups that have been here in the past three to five years and groups that require a "minimum 500 room nights and minimum 25,000 square feet. That way, everybody can have a piece of the pie."
The centerpiece of this equation is the Doubletree, which boasts more than 150,000 square feet of conference space. With bigger conventions, other hotels would probably get overflow from the Doubletree, Ms. Orbegazo said.
The convention bureau is sending representatives to the March 25 blitz, though with a much narrower target, the volume of calls is expected to be much less than the first event.
The March 10 blitz was a partnership among the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau Convention Sales Team, the Miami Beach Convention Center Sales Team and Convention Hotel Partners. Local leaders who participated included Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower; Michael Aller, Miami Beach Tourism and Convention director; Alex Tonarelli, hotel manager of Loews Miami Beach; Bob Balsam, general manager of the Miami Beach Convention Center; and Bureau President and CEO William D. Talbert III.