Invest: Miami speaks with William D. Talbert III, President and CEO

Miami tourism is not just about beaches. Just look at what’s happening with conferences: the current expansion and enhancement of the Miami Beach Convention Center will attract different industries—financial, medical and technological—to Miami for business tourism. In March 2016, Miami voters will be asked to approve a lease agreement for the 800-room headquarter hotel, which will generate revenues for the city without contributing to congestion on the roads as convention-goers will simply walk between the lobbies of the head- quarter hotel and convention center.

Meanwhile, our award-winning It’s So Miami campaign continues to educate locals and visitors about Miami’s many multicultural neighborhoods. We’ve opened new visitors’ centers in historical areas, such as Historic Overtown, Little Haiti, Little Havana and the West Grove, and partnered with the Big Bus to route their buses through these neighborhoods. Their business has boomed as a result. Our goal is to have visitors extend their Miami stay to visit our vibrant heritage neighborhoods.

Miami continues to benefit from traditional tourism drivers, such as cruising. In 2015, around 6 percent of our 15 million overnight visitors were here for a cruise. Today, we are working with the cruise lines to develop pre and post-cruise programs. We’re excited about the rollout of Brightline, a passenger rail that will operate between Orlando and Miami. Additionally, the opening up of Cuba will also have a positive impact on our cruise ship economy.

One indicator of the sector’s health is the growth within hospitality development. We continue to see increase in luxury hotels. EAST Miami, a six-star hotel with 350 rooms, opens in Brickell in early 2016, while Atton, the South American hotel chain, recently opened their first U.S. location, also in Brickell. Marriott meanwhile has proposed a 1,800-room hotel in the Miami Worldcenter project, with meeting and conference space in Downtown. As inventory grows, occupancy rates may soften, but will stay strong. So far, we’ve been absorbing the inventory, which means the customers are here.