|By Douglas Hanks, The Miami
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 7, 2009 - Wendy Kallergis, head of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, will take over Miami-Dade's largest hotel lodging group, the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association.
"Hotels are my passion," said Kallergis, a veteran of the hotel-restaurant industry who was the first food and beverage director at the Delano when Ian Schrager reopened the iconic South Beach hotel in 1995. " 'I'm very excited."
Kallergis takes over for retiring president Stuart Blumberg, who has run the tax-funded hotel association since its founding in 1994. "I think it's a fabulous choice," Blumberg said of Kallergis.
The association represents about 500 businesses in the tourism industry and mostly lobbies on behalf of hotels on local and state issues. It also sponsors popular lodging employee awards and publishes a visitor's guide.
In switching jobs, Kallergis will leave an organization with double the budget of the hotel group and three times the staff. Her compensation at the chamber, listed at $130,000 in 2008, is less than the $166,000 compensation package the Hotel Association listed for Blumberg in 2007, the most current year for the nonprofit's public tax returns. The association employs Blumberg and two secretaries.
Kallergis said lobbying would remain a top priority for the association, but she also wants it to become more of a networking group. "I think what businesses are really looking for is access -- access to our hoteliers, access to our general managers," she said.
Kallergis expects to start at the association in January, and there was no word Friday on who would take her place at the Beach chamber.
She takes over at a rocky time for the hotel association, which is experiencing the worst tourism market in a generation. The money-losing association gets about half of its $400,000 budget from countywide hotel taxes, and that revenue stream was cut 10 percent this year. Membership also is down as hotels cut expenses.
"With her years of experience and drive, she is the right person to be leading our organization heading into 2010," said association chairman Tim Nardi, also general manager of the Shore Club on South Beach.
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