Miami has everything packed in one city. From the vibrant art to the sophisticated international restaurant scene, to almost-perfect weather year round, the city is a top destination in the U.S. for meeting attendees to work during the day and explore and have a good time at night.
Carol Motley, senior vice president of convention sales and services for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), notes Miami Beach has a $650 million, reimagined convention center. “People want to be here; we have this beautiful convention center with a huge, 60,000-sf ballroom,” she says. “What we want from our convention attendees is to come early and stay later, and bring the economic impact to the city.”
Throughout the city, Miami has both big and boutique hotels that can host meetings, so there’s something available for events of all sizes. “People are looking to bring their meetings to places where they can get outside of the building,” Motley said. “There’s so much here — Little Havana, Downtown, South Beach and more — all of this offers the attendee a little more to do.”
Miami as a destination also represents a diversity of cultures. It’s a vibrant collection of neighborhoods with authentic cuisines, shopping and entertainment, from the Caribbean to Latin America and South America. Plus, Miami’s walkability makes the city a top choice for meetings and conventions. With abundant sunshine and warm weather, meeting attendees can say goodbye to crowded buses and shuttles and enjoy a stroll around the area. Pre/post session, groups can tour one of Miami’s culturally distinctive neighborhoods, dine on global cuisine, or enjoy a lushly landscaped garden or rooftop terrace with 360-degree views of the city and Atlantic Ocean.
Miami offers a great convention center with a new convention hotel coming soon and a very international feel, along with some of the finest dining experiences in the country. After all, in Miami, attendees can also go to South Beach for the extensive dining opportunities, great people watching, and of course, the beautiful beaches. Additionally, the cultural aspects and the world-class art scene of Miami contribute to the success of any meeting or event. “When we travel, whether it’s for work or leisure, many of us want to immerse ourselves in the culture and all the city has to offer,” says Mariana Hauri, director of sales for Menin Hospitality, which consists of Gale South Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton in Miami Beach and Shelborne South Beach.
The Shelborne South Beach offers more than 30,000 sf of flexible meeting and event space, including the recently renovated 4,388-sf Grand El Dorado Ballroom, which boasts Art Deco design features and can accommodate groups up to 360. “Meeting attendees can start their day with a traditional Cuban coffee from David’s Cafecito, a South Beach institution,” Hauri says. “The historic coffee shop immediately immerses attendees into Miami’s vibrant way of life.”
Elegance and sophistication permeate the property. Aside from its impressive penthouse suites, the property has multiple dining outlets, the GUYandGIRL Spa, and direct beach access. “The hotel’s iconic Art Deco pool deck offers a relaxed vibe and traditional South Beach nostalgia,” Hauri says. “There’s also an amazing Oasis Garden, offering various moon-watching events and fitness programming on weekends. Guests and meeting attendees are invited to relax at the iconic oceanfront pool with indoor cabanas and the private beach club that grants them access to white-sand beaches. Beach chairs are also provided for extra convenience when soaking up the sun and relaxing after a long day of group sessions.”
With more than 100,000 sf of completely reimagined meeting space, Trump National Doral Miami is one of Miami’s top venues for groups and events of any size. The resort features five ballrooms, including the 24,000-sf Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom, 15 breakout rooms and five executive boardrooms. More than 75,000 sf of outdoor space showcase the resort’s lush, verdant gardens and golf courses; among these is the Champions Patio, with 3,600 sf of space, complete with an outdoor bar and grill, where up to 300 attendees can enjoy the sunshine, as well as sweeping golf course views. “Our attendees love that they can enjoy a sense of tranquility at our resort,” says Maria Orozco, director of group sales for the resort. “From its entrance, lined with majestic palm trees, to its landscaped golf courses overlooking cascading fountains, you can’t help but appreciate the surrounding natural beauty.”
For instance, an insurance company based out of the Midwest had a successful meeting early this year at the resort, and their attendance was the highest it’s been in the past five years as attendees were eager to escape to the Miami sunshine and enjoy all the resort had to offer. Trump Doral secured their next program as a result.
The resort’s Imperial Terrace offers a different perspective looking out toward the world-renowned “Blue Monster” golf course, a fountain and back toward the clubhouse. This covered patio spans 2,300 sf and connects to the standalone ballroom sharing its name. Steps from the main clubhouse is the Royal Palm Pool, offering a 15,000-sf pool deck where outdoor events can be held for up to 1,000. “From state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment to full-scale production services, groups have access to a variety of exceptional services and amenities,” Orozco says. “Events are complemented by modern accommodations, outstanding dining and a variety of recreational offerings, including four championship golf courses, four Har-Tru tennis courts, retail shops and a full-service spa.”
Just a 20-minute drive from the resort is Little Havana, the best-known Cuban exile neighborhood in the world. There, attendees can sample delicious Cuban coffee and food, as well as visit numerous art galleries, cigar factories and more. Just north of downtown Miami, there are the communities of Midtown and Wynwood, which are the epicenter of the city’s artistic and urban lifestyle. “The city is a melting pot of culture, celebrating its diversity through food, art and entertainment,” Orozco says. “Doral, for instance, where our resort is located, is the heart of the Venezuelan community in South Florida. Here, you’ll find everything from mom-and-pop shops to trendy restaurants, art galleries, theaters and more.”
Jeff Stutts, director of catering and conference management for Loews Miami Beach Hotel, notes the city is one of the most desirable destinations in the U.S., with direct beach access, ease of access to Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and plenty to do off-site. “Year-round tropical weather is a great draw, in addition to our beaches and the wide variety of world-class restaurants, performing arts venues, museums, and a safe experience for all,” Stutts says. “Additionally, getting to Miami and Miami Beach is easy due to the large amount of airlines that have flights coming into the destination.”
The Loews Miami Beach Hotel offers meeting spaces that flow seamlessly for programs of 10 to 1,500 attendees, which is why it is a favorite among meeting planners. “We offer creative and personalized menu design, a seasoned planning and operations team to pull through every detail from beginning to end, and all of the latest technology to bring events to life through our partners at Encore Event Technologies,” Stutts says. “These elements complement the 65,000 sf of flexible indoor and outdoor function space we offer, giving us the ability to tailor all aspects of meetings and conventions to the client’s needs.”
For instance, the JP Morgan High Yield Investment Conference is held at Loews Miami Beach Hotel annually in March. “The company has chosen our hotel as their destination of choice for over a decade due to our ideal location and the comfortable fit of meeting space for their needs, but most importantly, the quality and knowledge of our team — both in the planning phase prior to the program, as well as the execution phase once the program is in-house,” Stutts says. “The client remarks that every year they don’t have to worry about the conference since it’s in such good hands with our knowledgeable hotel team.”
Whether it’s an executive meeting, corporate retreat with team building or an incentive trip for top performers, planners can rely on the independently owned and operated Trump International Beach Resort Miami to offer a memorable and seamless experience. The resort offers 22,000 sf of versatile meeting and event space, easy accessibility to both Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports, as well as PortMiami, the cruise ship port. In addition, there are endless opportunities for entertainment with nearby casinos, golf courses, boating, fishing and restaurants for dine-arounds.
Lydia Janow, senior vice president of events and trade shows for Aviation Week Network, a New York-based B2B publishing and event production company, has been planning meetings and events for 44 years, and has had her share of planning events in Miami. Since Florida is a hub for the demographics of those in the aviation community, after all, the city is nicknamed “The Gateway to the Americas,” she has found Miami to be a favorite among attendees through the years. “Miami is a hub city, which is important as many of our attendees do come from Europe, and it offers great proximity of the Latin America aviation community as well,” Janow says, adding that there is just so much to do. “Our attendees are a networking bunch of folks, therefore, they will go to the restaurants in the area and they will visit some of the bars.” She adds, “A few do bring their spouses, who will spend the day either shopping or staying at the hotel and taking in all the benefits a property has to offer. Some of our customers will host private dinners as they are in the area and know the places to go to.”
Last November, Aviation Week Network Events decided to start a new event, Advanced Air Mobility, which it hosted at Trump National Doral. “In my many years of planning events, I have worked with many magnificent folks — professionals, some have become friends,” Janow says. “I will say, though, that the staff and team at this property deserved an 11 in terms of hospitality. They did not go overboard to try and please our group — they did it naturally.”
But whether it’s the Miami Convention Center or another hotel or venue, she has found that every place — small or large — has been a success due to the great customer attention that Miami hotels have provided.
Annette M. Suriani, CMP, business events strategist for Fairfax, Virginia-based AMS Meetings Solutions, has been planning meetings in Miami since 1990. “Miami offers a totally different vibe — it is hip, trendy and sophisticated,” she says. “The dining scene continues to grow and offer cuisines from all over. Although there are limited hotels that offer meeting and exhibit space, the convention center offers great space that is not overwhelming.”
She also says Miami has things that other cities don’t, which entices people to come. For several years, Suriani held an advertising meeting at the Eden Roc Miami Beach for approximately 400 people. The decision was made to hold it there because of the proximity to so many ad agencies and marketing firms. “Within the body of the meeting, we held an awards program that was typically held off property,” she says. “We used several local venues, such as the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts, as well as the Colony Theater on Lincoln Road. These were unique venues that couldn’t be found in other cities.”
One of her favorite places to host a meeting is at InterContinental Miami, citing the amazing staff and ideal location for business events, considering it’s close enough to the beach that attendees can get there within minutes. Ellen Boyer, director of event logistics and operations for Raleigh, N.C.-based Kaseya, an IT management software company, arranges the company’s annual sales kickoff meeting every year in Miami, and chooses the city for a variety of reasons. “The lift into Miami is super simple,” she says. “You have the option of flying into Miami directly or into Fort Lauderdale if you are hosting an event on the north end of Miami. There are great options in the Miami area — you can be at the beach, at a great golf course like The Doral or in the heart of the city.”
During her meeting days, she tries to keep attendees busy and on property, so she arranges after-hour events, such as a beach-themed party or golf outing, and has even incorporated group events like glow-in-the-dark golf or something else different and exciting. The past three years, the sales kickoff meeting has been at Trump National Doral, and she’s projecting upwards of 1,000 for the next one. “This is a four-day meeting, where we are in sessions and breakouts during the day, and then we plan activities at night, such as a comedian with dinner, a putting contest; we even host casino night in the Crystal Ballroom,” Boyer says. “The venue has so many amazing options for groups of varying sizes. We also host smaller internal meetings here with dinners poolside or on the veranda of ballroom.”
She’s also hosted an October meeting at the Loews Miami Beach, which she calls another beautiful venue and offers great access to the nightlife that attendees crave.
The pandemic had an enormous impact on the hospitality and meetings industry, and Miami definitely was among the hardest hit. Although the pandemic was challenging for meetings all over the world, the venues in Miami worked tirelessly to ensure that meetings could go on safely. “From increased cleaning and safety protocols to outdoor and hybrid gatherings, we focused on ways we could better service the fast- and ever-evolving meetings landscape,” Orozco says. “We also found that our outdoor activities like golf and tennis proved to be popular among those searching for innovative team-building opportunities.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Shelborne South Beach opened its doors to two local businesses that could not operate on Miami Beach, as they did not have outside seating. Sweet Liberty Drinks and Supply Co. and David’s Cafe opened pop-ups at the Shelborne South Beach, offering guests the best of Miami under one roof. This was an effort to keep these small businesses alive and add a unique level experience for hotel guests and group attendees.
As part of Shelborne South Beach’s Clean with Confidence campaign, the property used cutting-edge EMist equipment to clean guest rooms and public areas, while also deploying hand sanitizers throughout the property. During the pandemic and going forward, the hotel has increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, with a focus on high-touch areas, such as the counter at the front desk, elevators, door handles, public bathrooms, the fitness center and even room keys. “Upon reopening, the hotel served as a host venue for small in-person meetings in boardrooms that have enough space for attendees to social distance,” Hauri says. “Comfort and safety was and remains to be a top priority for Shelborne South Beach.”
Of course, thanks to the multitude of things to enjoy outside, Miami was welcoming meeting guests before many other cities, thanks to its year-round tropical weather and ample outdoor space for planners to work with. “Additionally, when considering Miami Beach as a destination for a meeting, it’s important to secure a location that has the outdoor space needed to bring the client’s meetings and events to life,” Stutts says. “People come to Miami for the sun, beach and the warm weather. The best way to showcase that is via an outdoor event.”
So, while live meetings came to a halt in early 2020, Miami Beach as a destination has recovered more quickly than most of the country, especially over the last eight to 10 months. Most of 2020 was minimal to nothing for meetings, but 2022 has really started off with a strong showing, and officials at the meeting venues are happy that people are returning to the city and enjoying all Miami has to offer. C&IT