Meeting planners need to consider many issues, including the crucial one of choosing the right location. From airport accessibility and venue accommodations to entertainment and cultural experiences, what a location offers to both attendees and planners is paramount for an event’s success. And Miami, FL – with its array of resorts and unique venue offerings, cultural attractions and overall natural beauty – is the quintessential destination for corporate and incentive gatherings of all sizes.
Miami is known as the gateway to Latin America, says Gladys Mezrahi, founder and president of Indigo Events: “With more direct flights than any other city in the U.S., it is one of the pieces that Miami has to offer. The other element to consider is the overall experience of a meeting, and how we can make it more appealing and can create that sense of, ‘I want to come,’ as opposed to ‘I have to,’ [then] definitely Miami is the place.”
“Miami’s got a flair,” says Beth Miller, meeting planner and director of global accounts at ConferenceDirect, “The culture, food, vibe is like no other. The beaches, waterways, swaying palm trees, a mixture of retro and cosmopolitan, just makes everything exciting and different.”
During her career as a meeting planner, Miller has executed many Miami-based events. “Miami has a cool vibe with a Latin influence,” she says. “You can create themes easily around the local culture and surroundings. You can have meals on the beach, even have your conference right on the sand. Something about the surrounding water, soft breezes, warm, comforting air and bright crystal colors add special touches to meetings.”
As Nathalie Cadet-James, founder and CEO at Luxe Fête Event Planning and Design Studio, adds, Miami is a location that meeting and event planners should consider because it is a city with world-class accommodations, beautiful beaches and a vibrant multicultural vibe.
“These are ingredients for a memorable event experience,” says Cadet-James, who recently hosted a corporate group at the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach for a three-day offsite retreat.
“Mornings started with breath work, sound bath and yoga sessions on the beach at sunrise, followed by a traditional Cuban breakfast in one of the hotel’s beautiful restaurants,” Cadet-James says. “Our breakout sessions in various areas of the property made attendees feel like they were on vacation. Our final night of the event, we started at an off-property location and then walked a few blocks (led by flamingo-clad stilt walkers on Ocean Drive) to a full-moon beach-party at the Faena Hotel. No one wanted to leave. Everyone felt the lifetime memories we created. And most important for us, we watched an environment that we created foster genuine connections. Miami makes that easy.”
As Carol Motley, senior vice president of conventions sales and services at Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), explains, Miami and Miami Beach also have state-of-the-art convention centers to meet planners’ needs. The Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) features four main exhibition halls, with 491,654 sf, including an elegant 60,000 sf ballroom.
“Meeting planners will find the Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) district includes the 5.8-acre Pride Park, across from the MBCC, offering incremental unique event space,” Motley says. “The campus is also home to Miami Beach Botanical Garden and several other attractions for event attendees to enjoy at their leisure or program as part of their event.”
MBCC General Manager Freddie Peterson adds that the MBCC has been renovated to include a new grand ballroom, four junior ballrooms, almost 500,000 sf of exhibition space, an expanded Grand Lobby, pre-function areas that are bathed in natural light, up to 84 breakout rooms and about 800 roof-deck parking spaces.
“The MBCC campus includes two new event spaces: Venu, a space for elegant private events and upscale meetings, and Rum Room, a 1920s restaurant with an enticing tapas-style menu and local South Florida rums,” Peterson says. “The MBCC is proud to have earned Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR Facility Accreditation and LEED Silver Certification as part of the venue’s $640-million-dollar expansion project, which includes many environmentally friendly features.”
In addition to its many meeting spaces, the MBCC is located near amenities that make it a seamless experience for attendees, including fine dining, beaches and world-class cultural attractions. This makes planning events outside of the MBCC effortless and creates a stronger draw for attendees.
Motley also points out that Lincoln Road, which is a short walk from the MBCC, offers eight blocks of walkable outdoor dining and shopping that has become a staple for visitors in Miami Beach. A soon-to-be $60 million reimagining of Lincoln Road will add new fountains, green space and unique event venues.
“For those food-loving delegates, Lincoln Road now offers the culinary event smorgasbord – a culinary fusion event to offer new dining options,” Motley says. “It bills itself as the nation’s largest open-air market. … These attractions are great resources for planners looking to organize creative activities beyond the footprint of traditional meeting spaces.”
Planners can tap into the same memorable experiences that draw leisure travelers to Miami and Miami Beach. “Our multicultural neighborhoods like Little Havana and Little Haiti showcase the traditions, sights, sounds and foods reflective of our diverse and international community,” Motley adds.
Another thing planners can count on in Miami and Miami Beach is global-hotel brands calling the destination home. For example, the Arlo Wynwood, which opened last year, is a 217-room property and is one of the first opened in the cultural district. In addition, there’s the new Loews Coral Gables Hotel, opened last year, with 242 guest rooms as well as a spa, a fitness center and a rooftop pool featuring city views.
“Also, the new Elser Hotel & Residences, which features 646 rooms and suites, all just steps from museums, parks, Art Deco South Beach, the Miami Design District and Wynwood, offers planners expanded options,” Motley says. “In total, Miami and Miami Beach is home to more than 64,000 rooms.”
At the Trump International Beach Resort, the meeting space is spread across two floors in the building, making for quick access to all breakout sessions. The layout also keeps the meeting events separate from the leisure activities. The Ocean Ballroom has views of the ocean, and the Bay Ballroom has a panorama of Miami from Aventura to Bal Harbor. With 22,000 sf of function space to choose, planners can find the right fit for each group. Outdoor options include a lawn space for activities, two pool decks for cocktail receptions and the beach with the open-air Gili’s Beach Club restaurant serving as a unique location near the sand.
The resort has recently completed several renovation projects, including updating all pool and beach cabanas, adding a pool-level spa-cabana, a refresh to the Aquanox Spa with enhanced spa treatments. And it offers live entertainment and recreation activities, including pool DJs, live singers and musicians at dining outlets and the lobby, water sports, Zumba classes and more.
At Trump National Doral Miami, meeting planners have a choice of more than 100,000 sf of reimagined meeting space, including more than 75,000 sf of outdoor space. In addition to state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, groups have access to full-scale production services. Events are complemented by modern accommodations and world-class catering.
The resort also offers four championship golf courses, including the famous Blue Monster, which hosted the PGA Tour for 55 consecutive years, and most recently the 2022 LIV Golf Miami Team Championship. Additionally, groups can enjoy four Har-Tru green clay tennis courts, retail shops and a full-service spa. It also offers different themed yoga and meditation classes every month on the lawn of the Blue Monster, which can offer groups a relaxing break.
In nearby Aventura, the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa boasts a new conference center, featuring 120,000-plus sf of flexible spaces, 40 flexible meeting rooms, two grand ballrooms and vast outdoor terraces and venues. The new conference center offers its own porte cochere and kitchen. The award-wining resort also offers several outdoor terraces with unique features and views of the golf course.
In addition to the new conference center, JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa underwent renovations throughout. A complete $300-million resort-wide renovation added the new 16-story Orchid Tower and 325 guest rooms and suites. Two of the resort’s championship golf courses, Soffer and Miller, have been updated, and there’s the new five-acre waterpark, Tidal Cove.
Of course, The Biltmore Hotel is an ideal meeting and event venue, located in the historic Coral Gables neighborhood. With 23 various meeting spaces, including the hotel and the adjacent Conference Center of the Americas, The Biltmore Hotel, features more than 75,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space. The 11,280 sf of outdoor event space offers environments for gatherings of all types. It includes grand terraces and private outdoor cabanas, which are ideal for breakout sessions.
Weinberg advises meeting planners that Miami is still somewhat seasonal with the best weather from December to March, so there are a lot of snowbirds who rent for a month or more during this time, creating traffic at different times of the day.
“There are also currently many building and construction projects in Miami, creating additional traffic considerations when planning,” Weinberg says.
She also advises planners check the Miami Events calendar online to see what large events are scheduled, such as Art Basel Miami Beach in December, South Beach Wine and Food Festival in February, the Ultra Music Festival in March, and others. During such events hotel rates usually increase.
“Depending on the size of the group, contacting the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce (MBCC) or the Greater Miami Visitors & Convention Bureau (GMVCB), who have staff to assist with recommendations, is a great idea as well,” Weinberg says.
For those planning meetings in Miami, Mezrahi suggests looking into the big festivals that are already scheduled, so planners can piggyback.
“For example, if the group consists of foodie lovers, there is the South Beach Wine and Food Festival,” she says. “Or if the group enjoys art, there is Art Deco, Art Basel, etc. For a unique experience that only Miami has to offer, consider The Boat Show, or even the Model Volleyball tournament; and for the Latin lovers, there’s nothing like Calle Ocho to experience the music and the flavors of the Hispanic culture.” C&IT