That marks distinctly sunnier prospects for a city that has suffered its share of hits: Hurricane Andrew in August 1992, the murders of nine foreign tourists in Florida during 12 months spanning 1992 and '93, and an uneventful 1994-95 winter in the North.
Last year, Miami hosted 9.4 million visitors, up 7% from '94, said the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. While international figures were flat, up 0.7% to 5.1 million, domestic tourism rose 15.8% to 4.3 million.
UP TREND CONTINUES
The trend continues this year, as some 75% of travel agents surveyed nationally in February reported increasing winter bookings to warm-weather sites from the year before, said the American Society of Travel Agents.
"Everything is kind of coming together," said Bruce Turkel, a partner with Miami visitors bureau agency Turkel Schwartz & Partners, Coconut Grove, Fla. "We've had wonderful weather, while up north it's been dismal."
The bureau has taken hints from focus groups and doubled media spending, said Michael Gentry, associate VP-marketing and advertising. More than $2.2 million is slated for key feeder-market TV and print buys in fiscal 1996, ending Sept. 30.
"`Tropical' and `cosmopolitan' are the two issues we are driving home in the majority of our television," Mr. Gentry said, noting that similar print work employs a more humorous theme as part of the "Perfectly seasoned" campaign. Using themes like "Throw on a coat" of suntan lotion or "Throw salt on ice," in the case of a margarita, the print ads contrast the northern and southern meanings of those concepts.
The bureau has boosted its media budget by closing visitors centers, cutting staff and placing fewer large, color ads in magazines and more smaller, b&w ads promoting its new 1996 Visitors Guide. All ads now include an 800-number; the bureau measured 25,000 calls in response to its TV and print ads in five weeks from February through March.
REVAMPED VISITORS GUIDE
The guide, formerly produced in-house, was revamped as a 164-page title by Voyager International Media, Miami, and has had a 400% increase in ad sales, to more than $1 million.
Changes also have been made on the streets. The bureau and city leaders created the "Safety Net," a wide-ranging marketing and safety program that includes police patrols to aid tourists, and visitor information on FM radio.
Local leaders also convinced rental car companies to remove telltale license plates and bumper stickers from their cars, and provide maps and directions to tourists' destinations.
ROLE OF MEDIA RELATIONS
Public and media relations also play a role. Officials could point out no foreign tourists were murdered in Miami in all of 1994 and '95. But when a Dutch tourist was murdered in February, 30 international travel writers were visiting Miami as part of a familiarization tour sponsored by the bureau. When Miami officials learned of the homicide, they immediately told the journalists.
"The reaction was so positive and compassionate," Mr. Gentry said.
"One program or brochure may not do it all," said Mayco Villafana, director of communications with the bureau. "It is a compounding of programs that will create a safety continuum in your community."