PortMiami: Gateway to the Global Economy

By staff writer

March 2019

To say that 2018 was a banner year for PortMiami would be an understatement.

According to the port’s website, 5,592,000 cruise passengers travelled through the port last fiscal year, a 4.7 percent jump from 2017, making it the busiest cruise port in the world.

In conversations with Invest: Miami, Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald highlighted that the port is “breaking its own record” for cruise passengers — a testament to the city’s value as a travel and tourism destination.

Mayor Gimenez has said he expects the port to surpass seven million passengers by 2020, which is further testament to Miami being an excellent city for people to begin their cruise vacation, as well as to the great team of people who work at and provide support to PortMiami,” Donald explained. “Of our nine global cruise line brands, two-thirds of them bring guests to and from Miami as part of their vacation experiences. AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises (UK), Princess Cruises and Seabourn will all call on PortMiami in the next year.”

Aside from tourism and cruises, however, much of the port’s economic impact can be attributed to its vital function as a cargo hub.

When Invest: Miami sat down with Juan Kurlya, PortMiami’s director and CEO, he noted that investing in infrastructure improvement for cargo transport is critical for maintaining the port’s reputation as one of the fastest-growing and most active ports in the country.

“Growth is expected to continue as the world’s leading ocean carriers take advantage of PortMiami’s recent capital infrastructure investments, including channel deepening, new Post-Panamax gantry cranes, on-dock intermodal rail and direct interstate access via the new tunnel,” said Kurlya. “Without our infrastructure upgrades, we wouldn’t be experiencing the growth in containerized cargo vessels we’re seeing today.”

It is safe to say that these strategic investments and improvements are paying off. In fiscal year 2018, the port handled a staggering 1.084 million TEUs of cargo, with each TEU representing a standard 20-foot container.

Despite its record-setting numbers, however, PortMiami has no plans to slow its growth any time soon. Long-term goals include establishing a route to Miami from Western Africa. Furthermore, the port will welcome a new Virgin Voyages cruise terminal in 2020. Norwegian Cruise Lines and MSC cruises have also announced plans to open terminals in the fall of 2019 and 2022, respectively.

To learn more about the port and our interviewees, visit:




Experience Aventura Mall

By staff writer

March 2019

With over 300 stores ranging from luxury retail to mass market, an onsite resort and golf course, seemingly limitless dining options and museum-quality art, it should come as no surprise that the Aventura Mall ranked number two on Travel + Leisure’s list of “America’s Most Visited Shopping Malls.”

The mall is the largest in Florida, and with a whopping 28 million annual visitors, it is a testament to the value of experiential retail and how it can be utilized to draw in customers and capital.

As the e-commerce industry continues to rise nationally, malls such as Aventura highlight the value behind experiential retail — i.e., offering customers a multifaceted and immersive retail setting that allows them to do much more than simply shop.

“The stores that need to be experiential tend to cater to the higher-end demographic. Cocowalk and the Aventura Mall’s expansions are examples of this,” explained Hue Chen, president of Saglo Development, in a recent conversation with Invest: Miami. “Retailers need to continue to add to their offerings in ways that make their businesses unique to their customers. It’s important to be memorable.”

What sets the Aventura Mall apart from other large, experiential malls is its emphasis on sophistication and cultural enrichment.

“The Collection,” a collection of sculptures and art installations found throughout the mall, showcases work from world-renowned international and local artists such as Robert Indiana, Claire Fontaine and Brian Butler. The Collection is so expansive that visitors can sign up for guided tours of the mall to learn more about the art featured.

In addition to art, visitors to the mall can take advantage of its many events scheduled throughout the year, ranging from fashion shows, to launch events for major clothing brands such as Lacoste, to food festivals.

As if the mall wasn’t already well equipped to attract tourists, there is also a luxury hotel — the JW Marriott Turnberry Resort and Spa — onsite that offers a golf course and free transportation for visitors to and from the site.

When Invest: Miami spoke with Jackie Soffer, CEO and chairman of Turnberry Associates and principal owner of the Aventura Mall, she highlighted the mall as one of the reasons Aventura itself has become a “well-known shopping destination” that continues to draw in vacationers.

“Weve grown the mall, which is now easily one of the top malls in the country and has over the years changed for the better in terms of its sophistication and quality of tenants,” Soffer told Invest:. “We are continuing to expand Aventura with plans for new hotels and an office building.”

The mall expanded in 2017 and opened a new three-level wing that features retail outlets such as Zara and Topshop Topman, as well as modern architecture by Carlos Zapata. This speaks volumes for the innovative and forward-thinking nature of the Aventura Mall and its leaders, as that same year 7,000 malls closed their doors nationwide. There’s no question the nature of American retail is changing, but the Aventura Mall is staying well ahead of the game!

To learn more about the mall and its offerings, as well as our interviewees, visit the following websites:

Aventura Mall: https://aventuramall.com/
Turnberry Associates: https://www.turnberry.com/
Saglo Development: http://www.saglo.com/


Visit, Work, Play!

By staff writer

March 2019

Miami has long been touted as a “live, work, play” city. The growth of the city’s business ecosystem seen over the last 10 years has worked to further this reputation, with thousands of international and national investors and companies flocking to the city to both support and capitalize on its growth.

Given that Miami’s already strong tourism industry has seen even more growth in recent years, it should come as no surprise that a significant portion of those visiting the city (whether to work, play or both) do so for business-related purposes.

According to the Greater Miami Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, of the nearly 16 million people who visited Miami in 2017, 7 percent did so for business. With the bureau’s 2018 report due out in May, one can reasonably expect this number to be even higher.

The city’s hotels have, of course, taken note of this trend and followed suit. The hotels’ strategic locations, coupled with the array of amenities and event venues provided by each, all work to provide this balance.

An excellent example of this is the Hyatt Regency Miami. The hotel is located in downtown along the Miami River and is connected to the city’s James L. Knight Center, a noted venue for concerts and conventions. In addition to the hotel’s luxury accommodations and proximity to the port, airport and much of the city’s famous nightlife and dining venues, the hotel has unique offerings for business travelers.

For instance, the Hyatt brand offers a unique “Meetings on Demand” service that allows visitors to reserve spaces in the hotel for business, specifically conference rooms, meeting venues, boardrooms and co-working spaces. Visitors can also request deluxe accommodations, such as food and drink packages and customized room setups.

Furthermore, given that the hotel contains over 100,000 square feet of event and meeting space that is directly connected to the Knight Center’s convention center, its capability for hosting large events is almost limitless. This is key considering, on average, about half of the city’s business travelers come to Miami for conventions, specifically.

In 2018 alone, the Hyatt Regency hosted an array of events that reflected the city’s dynamic economy, such as the internationally-recognized World Stem Cell Summit, the 2018 U.S. Cannabis Conference & Expo and the Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum. Events planned for 2019 include the return of the Stem Cell Summit, the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce Symposium and Business Luncheon, as well as the Miami Career Fair.

With the hotel industry as a whole facing a degree of uncertainty and competition due to the rise in popularity of short-term hospitality rental services such as AirBnb, unique capabilities and accommodations are crucial for attracting visitors.

Thanks to local hotels such as the Hyatt Regency, however, Miami’s hotels still remain the most popular choice by far for visitors. According to the GMCVB’s report, 66.5% of visitors to the city chose to stay in area hotels, with only 4.8% electing to rent a residence.

To learn more about the Hyatt Regency and its offerings for business travelers, visit the following:




Booming Blooms

By staff writer

February 2019

More people visit public gardens annually in America (78 million) than visit Las Vegas (48 million) or Disneyland (11 million) and Disneyworld (11 million) combined. This is great news for Atlanta, whose garden tourism industry has been blossoming in the past few years.

Metro Atlanta is home to a number of beautiful gardens, including the Atlanta History Center Goizueta Gardens, Callaway Resort and Gardens, Dunaway Gardens, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and Gibbs Gardens.


“We’re going to be doing a lot with our gardens in 2019,” Sheffield Hale, CEO of the Atlanta History Center, told Focus: Atlanta when he sat down with our team last year. “A lot is going to open. That’s a whole other focus that people don’t even know about: our 22 acres of gardens.”

The 33 acres that comprise the Atlanta History Center campus are home to six historic gardens, each of which represents a period in Georgia’s history, from its pre-colonial settlement to the 1930s. Visitors can spend hours — or even days — exploring the enchanting gardens, woodlands and trails.

According to USA Today, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is one of the top 10 best botanical gardens in the U.S. The garden occupies a 30-acre site dedicated solely to the care and enjoyment of a variety of plants and flowers. Its 200,000 annual visitors in 2010 more than doubled to 500,000 in 2017, underscoring the growing popularity of these green attractions.

Barnsley Resort directly incorporates gardens and hospitality by connecting travelers to nature and an outdoor lifestyle. More than 3,000 acres in size, the resort offers countless hands-on learning experiences in its beautiful gardens and takes advantage of the boom in garden tourism. In fact, the attraction opened a new 55-room inn and 9,000-square-foot event space called Georgian Hall in early 2018.

The City of Atlanta has also taken note of the emerging garden tourism industry. In May 2018, the Atlanta City Council approved a $100 million expansion project within Piedmont Park that includes the botanical gardens. According to a press release from the City of Atlanta, “The expansion project will include a connection to the Atlanta BeltLine, improved pedestrian trails and access to Piedmont Park, additional open greenspace and forested land.” Piedmont is one of the most visited parks in Atlanta, and this expansion is sure to attract even more visitors.

While it’s difficult to measure the economic impact of garden tourism, there’s no doubt that visitors who come to tour Atlanta’s parks and gardens contribute significantly to the local economy. And it’s more than just at hotels, restaurants and shops but also at the metro area’s diverse offerings of cultural organizations. In fact, one research study found that the single most common denominator among cultural tourists was an interest in gardening. This is one blooming industry that Focus: Atlanta will be keeping an eye on as we move into 2019!

For more information on our interviewee, visit http://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/.




Bricks and Clicks

By staff writer

February 2019

According to a Statista report, in 2017 a total value of $2.3 trillion in sales were made on the global online marketplace. By 2021, those sales are projected to reach $4.5 trillion. Mobile commerce hit $700 billion in revenue in 2017, which was equivalent to more than 300 percent growth over the previous four years. There’s no question that e-commerce is rapidly growing its share of total U.S. retail sales; in fact, online sales currently represent nearly 10 percent of retail sales in the U.S., and that number is expected to increase by almost 15 percent each year.

However, even as this massive game-changer disrupts the retail industry, brick and mortar stores are innovating and adapting to make sure they stay in the game. Some companies are even finding that e-commerce is simply amplifying an already successful retail model. For the Las Olas Company, a leading commercial real estate and hospitality company in Fort Lauderdale that owns and manages the Riverside Hotel and leases office space and more than 50 locations of retail space on the bustling Las Olas Boulevard, e-commerce hasn’t had a negative impact.

“E-commerce is not really impacting the retail we’re trying to attract because some of the retail companies that we’re talking to are market leaders in that area,” Michael Weymouth, president of the Las Olas Company, told Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale when he sat down with our team in October. “People come to the stores to sample the goods — whether it’s clothing, high fashion or something else — and then they order it and have it shipped to their house the next day. I don’t know very many people who go into a store, buy a shirt and literally wear it out. To have it delivered the next day to your house is almost more convenient; that way, you don’t have to carry the bag around.”

In a world where instant access, round-the-clock accessibility and lightning-quick turnaround are not only desired but also expected, retailers are turning to e-commerce to deliver. Millennials make 54 percent of their purchases online, and for non-millennials that number is only slightly lower, at 49 percent. More than three-quarters of these online shoppers report they would like their products shipped the same day.

In addition to augmenting service, e-commerce allows retailers to set up their brick and mortar shops in smaller spaces and encourages them to provide a more personalized in-store experience. Physical retail is far from dead, and even as its share of the market drops, it is still expected to be well over 80 percent five years from now. In fact, online giant Amazon is today one of the biggest players in the brick and mortar game.

E-commerce is disruptive, but with the right flexibility and foresight retailers can capitalize on the benefits of both the clicks and bricks spaces. The Las Olas Company sees this as opportunity.

“Overall, we are well-positioned with our new product coming online to attract national brands, along with our existing product, which is mostly boutique,” Weymouth told Invest:. “E-commerce is a way for a lot of these companies to be able to service downtown residents without having to take a huge retail footprint. What’s going on in the retail industry is disruptive, there’s no question about that, but there’s a solution to it. And we happen to be in a good spot to offer that solution.”

To learn more about our interviewee, visit http://thelasolascompany.com/.

Historic Virginia Key Looks to the Future

By staff writer

February 2019

Credit: EventUP

As its name implies, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park is rich with history. Since it reopened in 2008, however, the park has wasted no time in establishing itself as both an environmental preserve area and a prime site for cultural events.

Virginia Key’s history dates back to the 1920s, when it became a haven for the local African-American population due to segregation. It remained a segregated zone in the 1950s and was closed by the city in 1982 due to high maintenance costs. In 1999, however, a group of locals called the Virginia Key Beach Park Civil Rights Task Force organized in response to developers looking to buy the land. As a result of their efforts to highlight the value of the park’s history, the city established the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust to oversee its future development.

Since it officially reopened to the public in 2008, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park has become a popular site for everything from ecosystem restoration projects to large music festivals. In a recent conversation with Invest: Miami, Guy Forchion, the park’s executive director, highlighted the park’s value as a community center.  

“Historic Virginia Key Beach Park is a community meeting space, which is historically what this spot has been for communities of color in the past,” Forchion explained. “It was a space for the African-American communities and people of color; now it is a space for everyone. A lot of community activities, dialogues and fellowship can happen here.”

The park recently hosted the 2018 House of Creatives Music and Arts Festival last November, which featured regional, national and international music groups, including big names such as Foster the People and MIA. The festival also showcased local cuisine with an array of vendors from various restaurants in the area. This event came on the heels of the widely publicized announcement that the park would be the future site of the famous Ultra Music Festival, which traditionally has been held in downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park.

Outside of providing a fantastic venue for music and arts festivals, the park is also crucial to the study of sea-level rise. “There has been an incredible change in our shoreline in just the last eight years,” Forchion explained. “Virginia Key is one of the monitoring locations for sea-level rise, and much of the research and studies happen close to us. Sea-level rise is being tracked, and it’s actually moving a bit faster in South Florida than most of the public timelines predicted. We are taking these things into consideration with the facility we are building.”

The facility Forchion is referring to is the museum that park officials hoped to start building back in 2008 to showcase the park’s history. However, due to the recession, in 2009 the City of Miami halted funding for the park, which now relies heavily on corporate philanthropy and private donors to maintain operations.

To help preserve the park’s legacy and enrich its future, locals can make donations to the park by visiting: https://virginiakeybeachpark.net/donate/


Port Everglades Sails into a Promising New Year

By staff writer

January 2019

Last year was, arguably, the most dynamic and prosperous year that Port Everglades has ever seen, and the port’s status as a catalyst for Broward’s economy is showing no signs of slowing down. Its growth and development is gaining international attention and generating thousands of jobs for the area.

“Today, Port Everglades is directly responsible for 13,185 jobs and produces over $1 billion in state and local taxes annually,” said Port Everglades Chief Executive and Port Director Steven Cernak in conversation with Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale. “For us, it’s all about economic impact. That’s the benefit we provide to the community: jobs and economic activity.”

The port attracted 3.87 million passengers in fiscal year 2018, according to its annual report, and this number is bound to increase moving forward.

In the 2019 winter season the port will welcome 10 new Holland America cruise ships, the first of which — Nieuw Statendam debuted at the port in December after sailing from Civitavecchia, Italy. With a capacity of 2,666 cruisers, the ship alone is expected to garner over 102,000 passengers and generate around $1.8 million in revenue.

The influx of Holland America ships to the port comes on the heels of the port’s recent addition of a Celebrity Cruises’ Terminal 25. The facility represents the largest investment ever made by the port, costing around $120 million to build, and will accommodate several Celebrity ships throughout the winter season.

In addition to driving tourism for the area, the port has also blossomed in terms of its cargo capacity, and it has implemented a five-year expansion plan that will entail nearly $1 billion in improvements to the port’s infrastructure to further increase its cargo volumes. This should prove to be a worthwhile investment, as the port experienced a 2 percent increase in bulk and breakbulk cargo tonnage in fiscal year 2018.

When Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale spoke with Craig Mygatt, CEO of Sealand, he highlighted the port’s advantages for transporting goods to and from Latin America, stating that the port’s strength “lies with the north-south routes, especially for perishable and agricultural goods, because the port is good at moving freight through the system quickly.”

As the number one port in Florida in terms of revenue, Port Everglades has successfully positioned itself as an international and economic hub for South Florida. Thanks to its strategic investments and expansions, 2019 is sure to be another banner year for the port.


To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

Port Everglades: http://www.porteverglades.net/

Sealand: https://www.sealandmaersk.com/

Art Basel Miami Beach: Gateway to the World

By staff writer
December 2018 – 2 min. read

December 2018 – Miami is known to many as the “Gateway to Latin America.” While the city has always been regarded as an international hub, its global footprint has grown in recent years, particularly in terms of arts and culture. A key contributor to this is Art Basel Miami Beach, an annual December art show that packs the city with international tourists.

With the 2018 edition of the show happening December 6-9, and Miami Art Week kicking off on December 3 and closing on December 10, Miami residents far and wide are preparing themselves for seven days of nonstop art, events and high-profile parties that bring in influential figures (and street traffic) from around the world.

In 2017, Miami’s Basel saw the likes of Cardi B, Drake and Paris Hilton, with showcased art by Andy Warhol and Basquiat.


The show attracted 82,000 visitors to the city — nearly triple that of the 30,000 seen in 2002, the show’s first year — and showcased 268 galleries with artwork from 32 countries. This year’s show will be just as broad and diverse as that of previous years, and many of the galleries will highlight social, political and cultural issues, with themes such as colonialism and post-colonialism, gender politics, immigration, feminism, climate change and racial inequality.

Since its establishment, the show has spurred the growth of other art fairs and events in Miami, all of which occur during the same week. The effect is what has become known as the “Basel halo.”

When Capital Analytics sat down with Kieran Bowers, president of Swire Properties Inc., he pointed to the fact that Basel, and the dozens of other events under its “halo,” help to stimulate Miami’s tourism industry during a time when most other cities experience a lull in such activity — i.e., post-Thanksgiving through the beginning of December.

“Basel started as a Miami Beach proposition, and now it has broadened to many parts of the city as a celebration of art in general,” Bowers stated. “It’s a huge positive boost for the city in a period where other cities are in a post-holiday lull. There is a large influx of businesspeople and cognoscenti, domestic and international, that brings an outside investment boost to the city’s retail, hotels and restaurants.”

Miami’s arts and tourism industries are now more robust than ever before, and it is events like Art Basel that help ensure the long-term growth and sustainability of these sectors by furthering the city’s exclusivity and global appeal. Given the velocity of Art Basel Miami Beach’s popularity, one can expect this year’s show to be the largest and grandest yet.

For more information about Art Basel Miami Beach, visit www.artbasel.com/miami-beach

For more information regarding our interviewees, please visit their websites:
Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau: www.miamiandbeaches.com/
Swire Properties:



A Surge of Competition

By staff writer
October 2018 – 2 min. read

Over the last five years, several new hotels have been announced in Philadelphia to accommodate the waves of leisure and business travelers visiting our fair city. These are both big-name hotels and smaller boutiques, both of which are strengthening Philadelphia’s credibility as a prime tourist destination. What’s more, nearly all of these hotels are planned for Center City.

Visit Philadelphia recently reported that “nine new hotels are unlocking 1,902 new rooms to meet visitor demand, which has increased at a rate of 86 percent over the past 20 years.” And these new projects couldn’t come at a better time. Visit Philly also reported that in 2017, a record was set for 1.1 million leisure hotel room stays, a 334 percent uptick since the late 1990s. With nearly 44 million leisure travelers visiting Philadelphia last year, leisure travel is the biggest driver for bookings in the city as a whole.

One of the newest hotels on the scene is the Cambria, located along the Avenue of the Arts in downtown Center City. General Manager Jerry Rice says that this hotel is owned and built by Philadelphians for Philadelphians. “We’ve worked hard to curate a sense of place with the locally inspired designs and unique upscale amenities that the Cambria brand is known for nationwide,” Rice told Invest: Philadelphia when he sat down with our team earlier this year.  “Our presence on Broad Street has drawn consistent interest from travelers and locals alike, and we hope the hotel will continue to serve as a gathering place for all to experience the heart and soul of the city.”

Nevertheless, with so much new inventory coming online in Philadelphia’s hotel and hospitality sector, existing suppliers are rightly apprehensive. We spoke with some of these hoteliers to get their take on the issue.

Philadelphia’s Warwick Hotel.

“Philadelphia is seeing a 2,000-room increase from 2012 to 2019, so inventory is going up quite a bit,” Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, told Invest:. “This means that we have to be on top of our game in terms of marketing the city and bringing people in.”

As inventory increases, it will become more difficult to keep Philly hotels running at 80 percent occupancy. The Hotel Association is hoping that the proposed hospitality investment levy will help the average daily rate increase.

The positive side of the story, as Michael Roberts, general manager of the Windsor Suites, understands it, “is that we hope the increase in rooms available in Center City Philadelphia will help to accommodate large conventions needing more rooms available within proximity to the Convention Center.” The increase in demand across all segments — including the corporate, convention and leisure businesses — should help to mitigate the effects hotels across the city might feel as the supply of available rooms increases.

For institutions like the Rittenhouse Hotel, it’s all about staying true to their history and their goals. “We want to deliver on the expectations and services of a traditional luxury hotel without the weight of a brand,” General Manager Reginald Archambault told Invest:. “Our ultimate goal is personalized service. It doesn’t matter if you are coming in for a stay, a spa treatment or tea; we want you to have a memorable and wonderful time. We want everyone who comes to the Rittenhouse to feel cared for, and it is that philosophy that keeps people coming back.”

These are the strategies that will allow Philadelphia’s hotels to stay competitive in the face of a rapidly growing hospitality industry. We’re excited to see what the future holds for Philly’s hotels!

For more information about our interviewees, visit their websites.
The Cambria: https://www.cambriaphiladelphia.com/en-us
Windsor Suites:
Rittenhouse Hotel: https://www.rittenhousehotel.com/
Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association: http://www.gpha.us/
Visit Philadelphia: https://www.visitphilly.com/