Conventions will bring big spenders to Miami Beach in the spring
This is what packs the Southeast all spring long. Chicago, Salt Lake, Denver, New York – and even Las Vegas – have less convention density in the first quarter of the year due to weather. Everything belongs to Florida. In fact, before COVID, Florida, led by Orlando, hosted more conventioneers than any other region. Convention goers come for business, they eat out three times a day, and room blocks create stable daily rates for hoteliers.
Can you imagine if Siemens, IBM, Microsoft, Meta and Apple got together here? Fintech, legal and medical conferences?
We saw some of this energy with the recent Bitcoin conference. Such conventions would create a huge demand for rooms during what we call Spring Break, as well as the in-between months around them.
This would create meaningful and positive change. Lincoln Road would prosper, and private investment around the new Convention Campus would explode. You would still need a good French toast on Lincoln Road.
A convention center is supposed to be an economic engine, but for nearly 40 years, the Miami Beach Convention Center has been anything but. After the incredible (but embarrassing) Microsoft convention of 2001, the MBCC was called “third world”.
We were promised lucrative conventions if we could pull ourselves together, that is, redo the convention center and build the prerequisite hotel. This would create a “Convention Economy” shop, where, as with Art Basel, the boat show, and other “cities”, the beach is occupied by convention-goers paying the highest fares, bringing business to our city, and taking advantage of the Lincoln Road neighborhood. .
It was supposed to happen in 2012-13, as the center’s penny tax (502) was passed and a tender was issued for a $1.5 billion campus that would have changed forever. the city’s trajectory, especially between February and April, the strongest convention months in the south.
Hailed as one of the most significant urban developments in the country, the process allowed two of the world’s best developers to compete before selecting a winner. The winning bidder, who spent nearly $20 million in fees, was quickly kicked out of town by a new administration that said the city had to start all over again, uncouple the hotel and “do it ourselves.”
In 2016, the finalist in the 2013 bidding debacle returned to Miami Beach to bid on just the corporate headquarters hotel, but, again, the city botched the process.
In 2018, a single team led by David Martin and Jackie Soffer finally won the necessary supermajority and planned the long-awaited 800-room hotel. There was more of the same opposition, but this time the city’s voters were fed up with the incompetence that sank the center and endorsed it.
In April 2020, Martin and Soffer rightly published a force majeure letter freezing their lease because of the pandemic. Recently, we started talking about the hotel and the project has resumed its course.
Well, the third time – or is it the fourth? – could be the charm. We have always been a convention town. The Grand Hyatt, Pride Park programming and activation will attract enough critical mass to create a vibrant Convention Campus.
This is our chance to make fundamental changes to South Beach and Spring Break. Build the Headquarters Hotel, once and for all.
Joshua Wallack is chief operating officer of Mango’s Tropical Cafe and a member of the board of directors of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation.
This story was originally published May 29, 2022 7:28 a.m.