Small groups produce big numbers for tourism industry
By Claudio Mendonça
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau this year has booked a record number of meetings, as growing rosters of small gatherings swell visitor ranks.
Since Oct. 1, Miami-Dade County hotels have set records, handling 404 meetings totaling 241,000 room nights and triggering a $120 million local economic impact.
That outpaces the prior full year ending Sept. 30, when local hotels hosted 340 meetings totaling 310,000 room nights with a $139 million impact.
"This year is our best year ever in terms of bookings," said Ita Moriarty, bureau senior vice president for convention sales. "We have been increasing every year. Our meetings express department has gone gangbusters. Compared to last year, we are already ahead of the pace in number of bookings, although a little behind on room nights."
Small meetings have been a trend for the past year, she said, as the economy picked up and companies bolstered budgets. Small meetings today, she said, account for about 85% of Greater Miami's business travelers.
The Mandarin Oriental's business meetings are up 40% from last year, said Jill DeMone, sales and marketing director. She said the Brickell Key luxury hotel draws most of its corporate gatherings from financial and pharmaceutical companies.
At the Hyatt Regency downtown, meetings are up 14 percentage points from a year ago, said General Manager Gino Caliendo. In June, the Hyatt held the first Caribbean Hotel Association meeting to be held outside of the Caribbean, accounting for 2,000 room nights. The Hyatt has 100,000 square feet of meeting space, second in the county only to the Fontainebleau Miami Beach with 160,000.
"The trend in Miami," Mr. Caliendo said, "is for meetings to continue to rise."