Convention bureau may target entertainment industry for boutique hotels
By Paola Iuspa
With boutique hotel business down during the past year, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau is expected to decide Friday whether to focus funds on promoting the smaller hotels to the fashion, film and entertainment industries.
David Whitaker, bureau senior vice president for marketing & tourism, said the bureau's board will decide whether to contract with a person or company to attend fashion, film and entertainment trade shows, advertising and oversee a website called Miamiboutiquehotels.com, now under development. The contract would also call for coordinating promotions with film offices for Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach and Miami.
The bureau considers the county's 120-plus properties with fewer than 125 rooms boutique hotels, Mr. Whitaker said.
"The creative and entertainment community find boutique hotels interesting, diverse, personal, charming and intimate," said Bruce Orosz, president of ACT Productions Inc., a bureau member.
He said a yearlong wave of hotel-rate reductions is making Miami competitive and European productions are returning to Miami Beach.
While small-hotel owners say they welcome the change, it may not be in time. They cite a drastic drop in tourism with competition from large hotels for fatally wounding some smaller owners, forcing them to sell or close.
"It is awfully late," said David Kelsey, president of the South Beach Hotel & Restaurant Association, made up of about 150 hotel, restaurant and nightclub owners.
Friday's meeting could be the chance to focus attention on the boutique sites.
With the bureau's fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, the board will discuss a proposed $15 million budget, 6.7% above this year, that creates the new function, said Al West, who oversees bureau finances. He would not disclose the amount being considered for the allocation.
This initiative comes a year after his group pleaded with the bureau to intensify boutique hotel marketing, Mr. Kelsey said, and two months after Miami Beach officials negotiated renewal of the bureau's contract to sell the Beach as a destination. Miami Beach pays the bureau $5 million a year to promote and attract tourists.
Mr. Kelsey said the bureau's proposal for a boutique-hotel specialist mirrors recommendations his group made in 2001 that were not approved and that he made the same suggestions in January to the Miami Beach mayor's tourism task force, of which he was a member. On that occasion, he said, the suggestions were accepted and passed on to the bureau.
The task force was created to find ways to generate business in a tourist city gone dry amid an economic slowdown and to guide Miami Beach's negotiations to renew the bureau's contract.
While Mr. Kelsey said he is glad the bureau is now discussing boutique hotels, he said it is disappointing that it took more than a year.
"Business has been down since Sept. 11," he said. "Why did they have to wait a year to consider marketing our small properties? Do we have to wait another six months before something happens?"
He said he would prefer that the city or the bureau give his organization the funds to promote boutique hotels because his group already has the know-how, while the bureau will need to contract with someone to do the job.