MIAMI (CBS4) – If you look at the latest tourism numbers you may find yourself saying “what recession?” Miami is defying the odds of the economy, going through what appears to be a tourism renaissance setting records.

On a Monday afternoon Miami Seaquarium’s new ropes course is packed with tourists. Attendance is climbing, new attractions are opening, and Seaquarium President Andrew Hertz is hiring.

“Anytime you can give someone a job. Any chance you have to give someone an opportunity to wear the uniform with pride, it’s a wonderful thing.” Hertz said.

The surge in tourism at the Seaquarium is not isolated.

It can be seen across South Florida. Port Miami is booming, collecting four million passengers a year. That’s the most of any port anywhere in the world.

“I think it quite simply has to do with the Miami brand. People want to be in Miami,” Paula Musto with Port Miami explained.

Before cruising Monday, Sheila McNulty spent $800 over the weekend to be here.

“The kids were egging me on to stay here just because it’s a fun place.” McNulty said.

With three new cruise lines and three brand new ships arriving later this year the port is headed for a record year.

“Record expenditures, record number of visitors, record satisfaction levels,” said Bill Talbert of Miami’s Greater Convention and Visitor Bureau.

Records is all Talbert talks about these days. The numbers don’t lie; for 20 months tourist taxes have been rising, and it’s not chump change.

Tourist taxes are up 16% for February over last year. It also appears to be speeding up. Miami International traffic for February was up nearly 10%.

“We are very bullish on the future; very bullish,” Talbert told CBS4. “Travel and tourism is going to keep increasing.”

So what changed? The weather? The sand? CSI Miami viewership? Talbert believes it’s simply Miami’s brand.

“The world can’t get enough of Miami…right now,” Talbert said.

Some would call that a bubble. Even if it is though, it appears to be just beginning.

“Miami is on the forefront. Miami is the ice cutter going through the glaciers. We are clearing the path for the rest of Florida to follow,” Hertz said.

How hot is Miami? New York’s Kennedy Airport is the busiest airport in the nation for international flights. Predictions are Miami will surpass it this year though. It means the future looks bright if the trend continues.

So you are probably wondering where is everyone coming from? According to the Department of Transportation our number one visitor comes from New York. That’s followed by Atlanta, Brazil, Chicago and Dallas.


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