3 new teams in South America to point tourists Miami's way
By Ashley D. Torres
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau has added overseas contract representatives in Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, with more additions planned, to promote Miami-Dade County as a tourist destination.
Over the past few months, the bureau added the three persons, said Rolando Aedo, senior vice president of marketing and tourism, as airlines begin new South American routes and travel to Miami from the region rises.
In October, LAN Ecuador started non-stop service linking Miami and Guayaquil. TACA airlines is also to add a non-stop daily flight between Lima and Miami on Dec. 1.
The bureau's research division finds visitors from Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela steadily increasing since 2003. The countries ranked 11th, 14th and sixth respectively for total county visitors in 2009.
Ecuadorian visitors rose 2% in 2009 to 167,061 from 163,786 in 2008. Peruvian travelers increased 3% year over year to 128,120 compared to 2008's 124,389. Venezuelan visitors also climbed 5.5% in 2009 to 323,597 over 2008's 306,827.
With half of all county visitors traveling from international markets, Mr. Aedo said, the bureau works closely with its research division to determine top-performing markets where a representative could help.
"Having people on the ground speaking the language," Mr. Aedo said, "allows us an amazing amount of intelligence."
The international contract hires represent the nonprofit, public-private bureau to promote the county at international trade shows and aid bureau sales missions. In addition, representatives put on the hat of media relations and crisis communication, Mr. Aedo said, during times like the Gulf oil spill to inform concerned travelers of the true situation in Miami.
The bureau also saves money by having foreign representatives who can attend local trade shows and events that a professional from the Miami office would otherwise have to fly to.
The three new representatives join 12 others serving about 19 countries, Mr. Aedo said, with select representatives serving more than one nation.
The bureau's Paris agent provides services for Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and the German representative assists with Austria and Switzerland.
Within the next year, the bureau looks to add representatives in the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Italy and Spain, Mr. Aedo said. Those representatives might also serve surrounding areas.
Although visitors from these four markets declined in 2009, they remain among the top 23 for Miami tourism, with the Bahamas ranked eighth, Costa Rica tenth, Italy 12th and Spain 23rd.
With Iberia airlines scheduled to add tri-weekly, non-stop service from Miami to Barcelona on March 29, Mr. Aedo said, a representative could take advantage and work with tourist operators to promote South Florida.
The bureau, which in the past has reported spending about $400,000 on its international agents, might incur nominal costs with additional representatives, Mr. Aedo said, but these costs are offset by savings from Miami-based bureau staff traveling less overseas.