Downtown Miamis Hotel Managers Continue Push For Marketing Funds
By Frank Norton
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With support from Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Commissioner Johnny Winton, downtown hotel managers today (9/19) will begin drafting a proposal to seek marketing funds from the city within 30 days.
General managers from five hotels, including the downtown Hyatt, Dupont and Marriott, will lead a charge by more than 20 for a joint promotional effort that will include pooling some of their own funds, said Miami’s Department of Conferences, Conventions & Public Facilities Director Christina Abrams. It is seen as short-term effort to boost low visitor traffic and room bookings downtown by targeting the area to planners of small and mid-size convention.
"Business in Downtown Miami is horrible; it flat-out sucks," said Marriott area manager Juan Romero.
Mr. Romero, who volunteered to help lead the marketing push, said downtown Marriott hotels are operating at about 30% occupancy.
"The GMs need to get off their pot and do something," he said, referring to hotel managers.
Last week Mr. Winton asked hotel managers to form a five-person committee, figure out the financial needs of the greater group and ask the city for a specific and measured contribution.
"I’ll be the first to respond," Mr. Winton said, though any contribution from the city would need commission approval.
Specific funding needs for the marketing effort have not yet been estimated.
"First they need to decide what it is they’re going after and put a package together. We’re not going to just throw money at something that hasn’t been properly defined," said Francois Illas, the mayor’s chief of staff. "Marketing and incentives dollars would go toward bigger conferences that affect more than one hotel, but the city can’t serve as a piggybank for one hotel over another."
Mr. Illas said the mayor would support funds for a marketing plan to boost downtown hotel business as long as the ideas are well-defined and in the greater interest of all properties.
At the hoteliers’ first meeting this month with city officials and a national consulting group, planners outlined strategies for boosting room night bookings at downtown hotels in the short term. Today’s meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Biscayne Bay Marriott.
Possible initiatives include using shared funds to finance reduced room rates, free shuttling, rent forgiveness for conferences and shared marketing communications such as brochures. Other short-term initiatives could include landscaping the entry points into downtown, redefining pedestrian ways and developing a water taxi service.