Miami-Dade tourism having 'best summer ever'
By Claudio Mendonça
Sizzling Miami-Dade tourism has boosted restaurant sales 7%, hotel room convention taxes 14% and hotel rates nearly 11% over 2004.
"There is no doubt that this has been the best summer ever," said Richard Millard, CEO of Tecton Hospitality, which manages the Aqua, Wave and Astor hotels in Miami Beach and the Clarion Riverpark in downtown Miami.
County restaurant receipts approached $300 million in June, up 7%, the Florida Department of Revenue reports.
Revenues from the county's convention and development tax hit $2.3 million in June, up from 2004's $2 million, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau said. The 3% tax on hotel rooms outside of Surfside or Bal Harbour builds and maintains convention and performing arts centers and some sports facilities.
"This is a countywide tax and is one of the biggest measures of how well tourism is going," said bureau President William Talbert III. "Miami today has year-round tourism, with visitors coming from Europe, Latin America and all of the US."
For the first time, the bureau reported room rates topping $100 in June, averaging $102 compared to $91.96 the prior year. In Miami Beach, site of 40% of the county's hotels, the average hit $107.
"It is unbelievable to see what is going on," said Steven Haas, president of the Miami Beach Visitors and Convention Authority. "Events such as the Sunglass Hut Swim Show and the Black Arts Festival are bringing thousands of visitors."
Mr. Haas, who owns China Grill, said his Miami Beach restaurant's business is up 20% from 2004 and the inflow of summer tourists is up nearly 50% from 10 years ago.
Consultant Jeanne Westphal, former county tourism director, said 10 years ago tourists couldn't walk safely in Miami. "Now it has changed, and that is what makes any destination successful."