As visitors to Miami-Dade soar, diners set one record, tourist shoppers spike
By Ashley D. Torres
High Miami-Dade first-quarter visitor numbers spell positive trends for downtown Miami businesses.
Continuing the trend of record 2010 visitor numbers, this year's Miami-Dade travelers have resulted in record airport passengers and increases in hotel occupancies and rates.
Miami International Airport reached new first-quarter heights with an all-time high of 9.3 million passengers, a 6.3% year-over-year rise. International passenger traffic also rose 6.1% year-over-year in the first three months of 2011 and domestic passenger traffic climbed 4.55%.
Miami-Dade hotel occupancy climbed 2.9% year over year in the first quarter to 80.8% compared to 2010's first quarter occupancy of 78.5%, according to Smith Travel Research's Trend Report. In addition, Miami-Dade's average daily rate climbed year over year in January and March — 3.9% and 4.5% respectively — but February saw an 8.5% drop as a result of high Super Bowl rates in February 2010.
High first-quarter visitor numbers have resulted in more patrons at Bayside Marketplace's waterfront Largo Bar & Grill, which opened Nov. 8.
The Americana fare and seafood restaurant had its highest number of patrons last week, which is directly correlated to high visitor traffic, said Anthony Napoliello, owner of Largo Bar & Grill and vice president of development for the restaurant's parent, International Restaurant Management Group, as about 70% of Bayside visitors are tourists.
Downtown-based department store La Época has also seen tourist shoppers spike, especially from Brazil, said Vice President Brian Alonso, as many visitors stay at nearby hotels. In addition, visitors are frequenting downtown more, he said, as people become more comfortable with the area, which has lots to offer and a number of hotels.
The InterContinental Miami has been one of the downtown-based hotels seeing increases in overnight leisure and business travelers.
After a banner year in 2008, many hotels suffered rate decreases. The InterContinental, said Director of Sales & Marketing Mike Kovensky, began recouping rates in January with strong year-over-year increases.
The positive visitor numbers are expected to continue with the hotel's future bookings rising, especially for the Memorial Day weekend.
"We're pretty encouraged," Mr. Kovensky said, "and cautiously optimistic" about the future.
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