County seeks firm to run Miami International Airport Hotel
Once again, the county is seeking a qualified firm to manage for at least seven years the aging but profitable Miami International Airport Hotel and will begin the selection process after applications come in next month.
Located inside the airport at the departure level on Concourse E, the 58-year-old independent hotel, owned by Miami-Dade, has been managed on a month-to-month basis by Hotels International Inc.
County commissioners and Aviation Department officials expressed displeasure with the Tampa-based firm many times over the past few years and have long wanted to find a national operator. Yet firms responding to bids have been rejected for various reasons, usually lack of qualifications.
Other attempts the county has made in over a decade to find a new operator have also resulted in rejection, most recently Nov. 24, 2014, when three of the four firms responding did not meet bid parameters and the fourth was ultimately unable to reach a labor peace agreement as the county requires.
The Aviation Department, representing Miami-Dade, put out the most recent request for qualifications Dec. 9. They are due at 2 p.m. Feb. 10, when all qualification statements will be taken to a room in the Stephen Clark Center, publicly opened and the names of respondents read aloud.
The scope of services asks that a qualified firm manage the 252-room, seven-suite hotel and related amenities such as business center, conference center, full catering services, Wi-Fi and room service.
Minimum qualifications are that the firms have five consecutive years operating a full-service hotel within the past 10 years in each category of managing, operating and maintaining a minimum of 250 rooms at one single location; have generated at least an aggregate of $50,000 in gross revenues operating a full-service hotel for the five qualifying years; and must be authorized to do business in Florida by the time of the award.
The request states that if a respondent is an individual or partnership, the partner responsible for the operation of the hotel should meet all minimum qualifications. If a joint venture, then at least one partner of the joint venture should satisfy all the minimum qualifications.
A respondent, joint venture or otherwise, may offer the experience of its corporate parent, sister or affiliate but the selection company will determine what weight – if any – to give to an affiliated company.
The request for qualifications describes the Miami International Airport Hotel as remaining a successful, independent hotel “because of its ability to be distinctive in the airport-district market.” It’s in a prime terminal location ideal for travelers who are arriving late or departing early, according to the request, and leads the surrounding marketplace in both average daily rate and occupancy.
The term of the hotel management agreement is seven years and may be extended at the county’s discretion for three one-year terms.
County commissioners have questioned why, with such a captive market, the hunt for an operator has been in a holding pattern for over a decade and what might be missing if none of the bidders has been qualified or a chain such as the Marriott does not show interest.
During the most recent public discussion at a county commission meeting last April, Aviation Director and CEO Emilio T. González said the hotel, built over five decades ago was quite an old building with a shelf life.
“Anyone who bids now knows there’s a time limit,” Mr. González said. “The bigger chains take a step back because it’s an old hotel and they want to re-brand. There might be interest, but in a luxury hotel.”
Aviation officials plan to eventually develop a new four-star hotel on airport property. Speaking the day after the April 5 commission meeting at the Greater Chamber of Commerce’s trustee lunch, Mr. González said that 10 years from now the current hotel must either must come down, be renovated or turned into offices. “At the same time, we’re looking at another project to build on airport property – more than likely a four-star hotel.”