Despite a still-shaky economy, rumors of impending oil and a volcano that disrupted travel worldwide, more people visited Miami in 2010 than ever before and dropped a record amount of cash.
The number of overnight visitors to Miami-Dade rose 5.6 percent to 12.6 million, with 6.5 million of those domestic and 6.1 million international, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Latin America had the most international visitors, showing an 8 percent increase to more than 4 million. Of those, 555,000 were from Brazil, a 15 percent increase over the previous year.
Though they made up slightly less than half of the pie, foreign visitors did the bulk of the spending. They shelled out $12.4 billion, while domestic travelers spent $6.4 billion. The $18.8 billion total, another record, was a 10 percent increase over 2009 spending.
William Talbert III, CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, summed up the report with these words: “records and records and records.”
The increases are greater than those seen by the state overall, which had 2 percent growth to 82.6 million, and neighboring Broward, which hosted 10.84 million visitors, an increase of 2.6 percent.
Tourism officials in Miami-Dade said major events like the Pro Bowl in January and Super Bowl in February helped fuel the increase, along with marketing efforts including the Where Worlds Meet partnership and monthly promotions featuring spa and restaurant deals during the off-peak travel months.
An erupting volcano in Iceland last spring that paralyzed European air traffic combined with the BP oil spill in the Gulf shook the industry last year. But Miami was able to use $1.25 million from money BP gave to the state to enhance international marketing efforts.
The bureau also said soaring attendance at major conventions helped boost their numbers and seized the opportunity to endorse proposed legislative changes that would allow increased tax collection in Miami-Dade to improve the aging Miami Beach Convention Center.
“It’s old, it’s small, it’s kind of ugly,” Talbert said during a presentation Thursday to the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic development agency. “The critical word is it’s not competitive”