Miami Beach tourism effort moves full steam ahead
By Catherine Lackner
Miami Beach officials say they are doing their utmost to stay on top of the tourism heap.
For most of 2001, the picture was sunny despite predictions of a sputtering economy, said Michael Aller, tourism and convention director for the city.
"First and foremost, there was no downtown in tourism," he said. "Prior to Sept. 11, we were looking forward to our most successful year ever and our 10 millionth visitor" to the entire county. "Sept. 11 put a damper on the world and created a sad state of affairs for everyone. People were afraid to fly, afraid to leave their homes."
But as life returns to some semblance of normality, consumers have resumed their normal behavior, he said.
"Our hotels are sold out for this week, with the Orange Bowl and all of the other events for the holiday. We hope that will continue through 2002. We're very, very optimistic."
As for marketing, "South Beach has an established reputation," Mr. Aller said. "What we're trying to do is let everyone know we're alive and will accommodate everyone. We're on TV, radio shows; we're in magazines and bringing people on FAM trips. The media just needs to see that we're alive."
People throughout Florida will get that message clearly Jan. 25-26 when the Florida Lottery holds six live broadcasts from South Beach, said Kevin Crowder, city economic development director.
The idea was suggested by a lobbyist, who then got city officials together with state lottery officials.
Three broadcasts Jan. 26 and three the following evening will snag thousands of viewers who tune in to learn the winning combinations.
"There's a lot of exposure in that for everybody," Mr. Crowder said.
The city is also working with lottery officials to design a scratch-off game with a Miami Beach theme. It should debut in the spring.
"It's an example of some good cross-marketing. We're both leveraging our exposure," Mr. Crowder said.
Addressing marketing and other concerns is the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Tourism Task Force, of which Stuart Blumberg is chairman.
The 33-member group will "look at long- and short-term issues," said Mr. Blumberg, who is president and CEO of the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association.
"One of them, clearly, is sales and marketing."
The task force is exploring using concourse walls at Miami International Airport to let visitors know what's available on Miami Beach. "We can make the airport a marketing tool," Mr. Blumberg said.
The group, he said, is also searching for ways to lure local residents to Miami Beach, to address the perception of a parking shortage and to improve employees' level of service.
"We're not going to reinvent the wheel," Mr. Blumberg said, likening the campaign to those recently launched by New York City and Chicago. "But we have a lot to offer, and I firmly believe we need to get South Florida residents involved."
Miami Beach has unique appeal for many niche groups, including those interested in film and fashion, gay and lesbian travelers and others. Making them feel comfortable will spur repeat business, Mr. Blumberg said.
"Everything comes under a big umbrella - parking issues, sanitation and code enforcement, service and attitude, everything."
Panel discussions and workshops will be held to inspire cooperation and to brainstorm, he said.
"We're going to take this thing and really, finally, do it right. Let's get it all done. Then we can tweak it."
"Some may feel 33 members is an unwieldy group," Mr. Blumberg said, but "we needed a cross section of everybody. Tourism is still our bread and butter."