Hotel alliance would pool funds to market downtown Miami-Brickell area
By Frank Norton
More than 20 Miami hoteliers intend next week to plot an immediate action plan to combine efforts and money for marketing their downtown-Brickell area sites.
Still reeling from a drop in business travel this year and facing a crush of more than 500 new rooms next year, downtown hoteliers want to band together to attract more corporate and group travelers.
In a meeting with national consultants and City of Miami officials last week, hotel marketing directors discussed creating a collective fund. The mission would be to promote the downtown-Brickell area as a niche hub for small and medium conventions.
The district-focused marketing push is seen a stop-gap measure ahead of longer-term plans to build a downtown convention center or expand capacity at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
"This is about doing something to bring in business now, in the short term," said Joe Brown, area director of sales & marketing for Marriott Lodging. "We are very much at risk as a downtown destination if we have to wait for future development plans. This is about bringing more revenue downtown within the next 12 months."
Mr. Brown and other hoteliers said their greatest concerns are declines in corporate jet and group travel, which have hurt downtown's lodging market far worse than Miami Beach's diversified and well-anchored sector.
As far as actually earmarking funds, representatives from the city, hotels and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau hope to finalize plans on Sept. 13.
The city would consider providing matching dollars if organizers come up with a viable proposal, said Christina Abrams, director of Miami's Department of Conferences, Conventions & Public Facilities. Money from the city would need commission approval.
"We want to build an aggressive package to bring more business downtown," said Ms. Abrams. "We have to be creative and keep an open mind on what will sell the client."
Funds also could be sought from the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, but Ita Moriarty, senior vice president of convention sales, said such a decision would be based on weighing the impact of downtown-Brickell business on all of Miami-Dade County.
Ms. Abrams said shared marketing dollars could go toward offering complimentary transportation and meeting space. It could also subsidize competitive room-rate packages for groups spread across various hotels in the area, hoteliers said.
Others see more aggressive opportunities.
"We need to start campaigning for downtown office space because that's what really drives our demand," said Gil Katzman, head of regional sales and marketing at Inter-Continental Hotels & Resorts. He said rampant condo development is cannibalizing demand for the already supply heavy lodging market.
"We've increased the inventory by 1,200 rooms but not the corporate base that will support it," he said. "These condos are investments for people who come to the city one week a year and don't use hotels.
"We're competing with the condos," he said, adding that about one-half of Inter-Continental's Miami business comes from corporate travelers.