By Frances Wang

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida’s beaches remain off limits, with no time-table for re-opening them amid the coronavirus crisis. Of course they are a huge part of our tourism draw, which is why a lot of work continues to jump-start that huge part of our economy when the time is right.

With Miami being one of the most popular global destinations, tourism officials are already launching the #MiamiShines campaign to get people excited about vacation in the Magic City.

“Not necessarily sunshine above us, which is amazing most of the year. The shine of our people. Shine of our places. Shine of our neighborhoods,” said Rolando Aedo, the chief operating officer of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, or GMCVB.

Aedo estimates hotels will not be open until June.

“As soon as we get the green light, we’ll work backwards to launch the campaign,” said Aedo. “Advertising, marketing, social media about two weeks prior to re-opening.”

As hotels and restaurants open slowly with limited capacity, Aedo said they’ll first target locals and those who are within driving distance.

“Focus on local, regional, drive market, then key national markets,” explained Aedo. “Easiest customer is our closest. People like you and me, folks in Kendall, downtown… nice to get away especially with what’s been going on the last couple of weeks.”

If you’re a fan of Miami Spice or spa deals, get ready.

“Ask hotels to put their best foot forward, best deals on the table for residents, locals, staycation, family, friends, people from those drive markets,” Aedo said, “enjoying some of the best values ever in one of the best destinations ever.”

Aedo said events like 9/11 helped them prepare for a crisis like this, although this ranks at the top.

“That’s why we feel well prepared to come out of this in a very positive fashion,” said Aedo, pointing out that Miami Spice started post 9/11.

With international travel restrictions being some of the stricter, Aedo said that may also play a part.

“Miami does have a lot of international tourism. US citizens looking to travel to international destinations but won’t be doing that for the foreseeable future… come to Miami. Drive to Miami and visit the world,” said Aedo. “Miami is blessed with such a multi-cultural experience.”

A recent Miami Herald article showed the latest numbers from industry data firm STR. U.S. hotel gross operating profit per available room fell 101.7% during March 2020 and 81.5% in the Miami market. Another report on Thursday afternoon details the layoffs of 458 workers from the Eden Roc Hotel on Miami Beach, while the Kimpton Hotels said they have only furloughed their employees. Eric Jellson, the director of marketing strategy, is ready to put his team back to work.

“I think everything we’ve read, heard, seen from people are they wanna go out. They’re eager to travel again, to go out and dine again,” he said. “Owner and operators are also smart enough to know before they can jump in this, they need to make sure everyone is safe and secure. What would be worst to open and have to close.”

Jellson, who has been in the industry for more than 30 years, said he got into the business for the human connection. He believes genuine care and genuine service will help revive his hotels.

“Go back to its roots, while distribution will be different, technology driven,” said Jellson. “But the actual human connection will be just that. It’ll be staying human, it’ll be keeping people real. I think the beauty of our business has always been people wanting to help serve people.”

Jellson believes social media will be a huge force in getting people out to hotels and on vacation.

“This is where social media is going to be so engaging. As people are going out on adventures, hopefully they’re having great experiences and feeling safe. They’re going to post about that and talk to their friends,” said Jellson.

Incentives like free parking for those who are driving down from other states or pets staying free, which is usually offered in Kimpton hotels, are all part of Jellson’s strategy as well.

“Make it easier for families to get away this summer,” said Jellson.

While the tourism industry has definitely been hit hard by pandemic closures, Aedo feels hopeful to come back even stronger.

“This industry is the most resilient. [Our] community one of most resilient,” he said. “Very confident that we will regain market or [expand] in the very near future.”

Aedo points out that people coming out of the pandemic may have saved money or if they were negatively impacted financially, they may be looking for deals.

“People who want to invest the money into local hospitality,” said Aedo. “On the flip side, a lot of folk have been furloughed [and may be] looking for better deals than ever.”

In addition to the Miami Shines campaign, the GMCVB also have programs including Miami Eats, Miami Salutes, Virtual Miami, and a Miami Pandemic Response Fund. For more on these programs, visit GMCVB.com/COVID19.

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Frances Wang

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