This year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival ensured COVID-19 safety logs were in place.
Matias J. Ocner
May recognized National Travel & Tourism Month, marking the unofficial start of summer. At the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), we thought about the general state of the travel and tourism industry.
On May 6th, the GMCVB welcomed 300 business and community leaders for its annual State of the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Breakfast at the redesigned Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC). The mood was cautiously optimistic, with one general conclusion: the recovery is in full swing despite the unexpected blow of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is good news for the entire Miami-Dade County as the impact of tourism spreads across the area and affects everyone in our community.
Part of this success can be traced back to GMCVB’s early efforts to support the Miami-Dade tourism and hospitality industry through our Miami Shines Campaign, a comprehensive travel and tourism recovery program to do business for the hard-hit industry to crank. The program provides incentives for restaurants, hotels, museums, spas, and other attractions. The GMCVB’s Multicultural Tourism and Development Department works closely with minority-owned small businesses, providing tools and access to these tourism recreation efforts. In addition, the GMCVB used a Miami-Dade County-approved grant of $ 5 million to launch MIAMILAND, a campaign promoting the Miami-Dade nature and positioning Miami as the premier destination for safe and enjoyable travel.
The return of travel and tourism to the greater Miami area is due in part to the resumption of personal commercial, business, and lifestyle events. In March, the Jewelry International Showcase (JIS) took place at the Miami Beach Convention Center with numerous security protocols to protect attendees and exhibitors. It was a sure – and resounding – success with 170 brands exhibiting and nearly 3,000 buyers. In April, the Aesthetic Society held its annual meeting at the Convention Center to share the latest techniques and research among the best plastic surgeons in the country. The event was similarly successful and personally secured more than 700 participants. We can now add the South Beach Wine & Food Festival to the hit list and look forward to several more safe in-person events including the Hyundai Air and Sea Show, Bitcoin 2021, American Black Film Festival (ABFF), Florida International Medical Exposition, LE Miami and Seatrade Cruise Global.
Even more encouraging, the GMCVB data suggests we are rapidly catching up to 2019 tourism levels. Current average daily rates for local hotels are beating 2019 numbers, and we expect occupancy rates to be in line with 2019 numbers through July – with the upward trend likely to continue. The gastronomy sector is also recording an upward trend well beyond 2019, with reservations alone by almost 30 percent.
The increase in air travel and the return to the cruise business are key to our recovery. Miami International Airport has had the highest number of passengers since the pandemic began. And our home carrier American Airlines as well as JetBlue, Southwest and Frontier are adding new routes that make it even easier for visitors to fly to Miami. Our PortMiami-based cruise industry is one of the county’s major economic drivers. As the Cruise Capital of the World ™, we are encouraged by news from our cruise lines showing signs that the industry will be back online soon.
The data is encouraging not just for hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses, but for the community as a whole. Tourism is Miami’s # 1 job creator, historically supporting nearly 144,800 jobs per year and saving Miami-Dade households up to $ 1,744 in taxes annually. In 2019, tourism generated more than $ 1.5 billion in tax revenue that raised funds for critical services like transportation and health. At the state level, 38 percent of all sales taxes are paid by visitors, generating $ 1.4 billion in tax revenue annually.
The return of international visitors to our destination also plays a vital role in a full recovery. The Senate’s Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion Subcommittee is considering policies and measures to revitalize international travel. On May 18, at the invitation of the subcommittee, I will testify of the importance of foreign visitors to the greater Miami and Florida area – and the vital role they will play in our nation’s economic recovery.
Over the years, Miami has seen hurricanes, oil spills, the Zika pandemic, and other crises. But we are a resilient bunch and we overcome every obstacle that comes in our way. If everyone does their part – government agencies, private companies, residents and visitors – our community will once again prevail and emerge stronger than ever.
William D. Talbert III, CDME, is President and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.