Bienvenidos a Miami
South Florida had a tumultuous time during the recession. It was hit hard by the decline of the real estate market and at times had some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Corporations, investors and individuals appeared to be fleeing the region in droves. The image of “foreclosure” signs in most of the neighborhoods and halted construction projects along the beach are burned in my memory of South Florida during the worst parts of the recession. These images are scary and it is refreshing to see wherein there is evidence of resilience and growth in a region that offers an infusion of international culture, amazing beaches, great nightlife and so many other things that make Florida attractive to both retirees and spring-breakers alike.
I would argue Miami is the best performing port of entry for international travelers to the United States, in fact, since 2006, it is the only city, of the top five ports of entry, to consistently report year-over-year positive growth in international arrivals. New York is listed as the number one port of entry by volume and Miami comes in at a close second. But, in over-all performance? Miami showed dramatic growth in international arrivals during a period of world-wide economic recession, proved its sustainability in some markets and reinforced the need to invest in infrastructure that supports international trade, commerce and travel.
Miami International Airport (MIA), which recently opened new and renovated terminal facilities, is had the highest average annual growth between the years 2006 and 2010 (3.1% annually) of all major Florida Airports. Miami also reported the least percentage of negative growth during the downturn of 2009: -1.2% change between 2008 and 2009, whereas Fort Lauderdale and Tampa reported -6.9% change during the same years. MIA’s comparative resilience during this time, is due, in part to the consistency of International traffic sustained at the Airport.
Total domestic visitors within the United States, though on a decline in previous years, are still a much greater number than international visitors (in 2010 it was about 1,953,800,000 Domestic and 57,900,000 International to the United States). So why are international visitors so significant? The answer: they spend more money… significantly more than that of a domestic visitor. For each domestic visitor within the US one can expect an average of about $320 per person, for an International visitor the expectation, on average, is that they will spend more than $1,700 per person.
Investment in infrastructure that supports the international market has been and will be an important part of South Florida’s economy. Presently, Miami is at a multifaceted competitive advantage to other ports-of-entry cities including NYC, Newark and LA. Miami’s proximity and close relationship to Latin America have poised the city and region to benefit tremendously from growth presently being experienced in overseas. Latin America is booming in regards to emerging economies and increasing their position with international air travel. Simply put: businesses, airlines and private airport operators are investing heavily in the Latin American market; infusing their economies and, as a result, also providing an increased level of mobility and connectivity to their populations.
So where has Miami intentionally or unintentionally made itself attractive to international traffic? For one: The development of expanded and modern terminal facilities at both MIA and FTL have poised South Florida to welcome International visitors and their money in a world-class manner. The facilities are impressive and accommodate airlines and passengers well in a post 9/11 environment. Though the congestion, confusion and chaos caused by years of construction made some parts of those Airports intolerable for locals, the effort was needed and well worth the pain. Secondly: I think Latin American travelers overall just feel comfortable in Miami. Miami’s has an enormous Hispanic population and with that has brought Spanish-language proficiency throughout many parts of South Florida. In the US, I have never experienced a city where being bi-lingual was more a requirement of the general population than in Miami. Third: The wide array of attractions give visitors a reason to stay in Florida longer and spend more money than they might do elsewhere. For many international travelers, Miami is more than just a destination city, it’s like a second home.
Analyst, Planning & Built Environment
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