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2011 a Banner Year for Miami Tourism with Visitor Counts Up 6.7%
and Spending a Record $20.7 billion

By Hannah Sampson, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

April 05, 2012--Anyone notice Miami-Dade felt a little more crowded last year?

Thank the 13.4 million overnight visitors who came to the area -- and set a new record, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The year's total visitor count was 6.7 percent higher than the 2010 total, which was itself a record.

A surge in tourists from Latin America resulted in a 7.2 percent increase in international visitors, to 6.5 million. Brazil took the title of top feeder market from Canada, with more than 634,000 visitors. Following Canada are Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Germany, and the UK.

Domestic visitors increased 6.2 percent to 6.9 million.

Broward County also reported record-breaking numbers, with an increase of 1.1 million visitors in 2011, to 11.1 million total. International visitors grew by 8 percent; visitation from Brazil grew 50 percent, said the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Statewide, an estimated 85.9 million visitors came to Florida in 2011, another record.

In Miami-Dade, tourists spent $20.7 billion, the bureau said -- 10 percent more than the previous year and a new record.

William D. Talbert III, the Miami-Dade bureau's president and CEO, said he is confident that 2012 can continue the trend of breaking previous years' records.

"We're very, very bullish on what's happening in the destination, the strength of the brand, all the great things that are happening," he said.

Talbert said a year that brought a recovering economy and no major storms helped the destination, as did sales and marketing efforts in 38 countries.

Last year, the Miami-Dade bureau added "Miami Romance Month" to boost visitor numbers in June. This year, it added Miami Film Month in March and Miami Golf Month in April; in August, Miami Spice Month -- which launched in 2002 -- will add a new tier of eateries.

Added flights at Miami International Airport also helped boost tourism numbers, including new service from Barcelona, Amsterdam, Lisbon, and Monterrey, Mexico. About 97 percent of Miami's visitors arrive by air.

To encourage more new air service, Miami-Dade officials started working with MIA last year to draw new airlines and encourage existing airlines to add service. The bureau has dedicated $100,000 for cooperative-marketing programs with airlines.

This year, the state's destination-marketing organization, Visit Florida, will also sign on to that effort with its own $100,000. The prime target is carriers from Asia; the effort also seeks increased service from Europe.

Officials with the Miami-Dade tourism bureau said that they anticipate positive results from other Visit Florida efforts to bring foreigners to the Sunshine State and from the launch of the Brand USA campaign to draw more international visitors to the nation.

"We're doing more, and the state's doing more, and the country is doing more," said Rolando Aedo, the Miami-Dade bureau's chief marketing officer.

Just this week, the bureau launched a new brand positioning called "It's So Miami," which will be used in print, television, and online advertising as well as hotel promotions and social-media outreach. Some adsalready are appearing on a digital billboard in New York.

Print ads feature Little Havana, Wynwood Walls, the outdoor "wallcasts" of New World Symphony concerts, and, of course, the ocean.

"It captures that vibe, that energy we feel makes us very attractive, very different to the world," Aedo said. "It's those only-in-Miami moments."


(c)2012 The Miami Herald

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