Peggy Benua, board chair of Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority (MBVCA)
Peggy Benua is the board chair of Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority, and general manager of South Beach Marriott in Miami Beach. She served as resident manager of Eden Roc Renaissance Resort and Spa in Miami Beach.
What about Miami Beach appeals to a global audience?
Miami Beach is unique in its combination of old and new with historic Art Deco architecture and properties full of dazzling new restaurants and hotels. We appeal to a global audience because of our remarkable food, lodging options, activities, events and services. Miami Beach truly provides unparalleled offerings, with something for everyone.
Have the bureau’s marketing efforts increased recently to bring greater awareness to international markets?
Miami’s global appeal is told in our numbers: In 2016, we had 15,441,947 passenger arrivals at the Miami International Airport—the highest number of passenger arrivals ever, and a 2 percent increase from 2015; and a 5.4 percent increase in overnight visitors. In 2015, 48.1 percent of visitors to the Greater Miami area stayed on Miami Beach. The MBVCA credits part of the uptick to the successful branding of the destination: “Like No Other Place in the World.” We also launched the Miami Beach API and app, which positions the city as a pioneer in the industry, and will continue to be instrumental in driving tourism in 2017.
Is there any particular group of travelers that Miami attracts over others?
Miami Beach attracts a wide array of travelers. The area has long been recognized for its beaches and nightlife, but the city is full of rich offerings for its millions of annual global visitors, from singles to couples to families to the LGBT community. Miami Beach has an unparalleled culinary scene, rich culture, luxury shopping and 187 boutique and resort hotels—not to mention the New World Symphony, Miami City Ballet, international festivals and art exhibitions like Art Basel.
You won the title of North America’s Leading Tourist Board at World Travel Awards. What was your reaction? We were honored to receive this award, especially when competing with other formidable boards, including the Arizona Office of Tourism, Destination DC, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, NYC & Company, Visit California, Visit Orlando and VisitFlorida. The MBVCA works hard to market Miami Beach. We know how special the destination is and we want to share it with the world.
What are some of the biggest attractions in Miami Beach for business travelers?
There are a lot of options here for the business professional, including ample meeting spaces with top amenities and a world-famous convention center. The city is also a global hub for international business from South America, Europe, Russia and other regions. Once they are off the clock, business travelers have so much to choose from here, including a sophisticated culinary scene, Lincoln Road shopping, unparalleled exhibits at the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum, TheBass, the recently launched Faena Forum, and endless choices of concerts and shows. Some of the biggest draws are walking along our 7 miles of beaches, our outdoor activities and dozens of events each year.
What can you tell us about the award ceremony and the trip to the Maldives?
It was an honor to travel to the Maldives and accept the WTA award on behalf of the MBVCA; we have had quite a year. From a global perspective, it is apparent that Miami Beach continues to be an inspirational destination. Miami Beach is considered a bucket-list city for many travelers from around the world. As our planet shrinks due to globalized economies, we will continue to welcome more international visitors who want to experience the buzz of Miami Beach firsthand. To be recognized as the leading tourism board worldwide by the WTA is a testament to the popularity and allure of Miami Beach as a tourist destination.
What advice can you offer smaller convention and visitor bureaus that are looking to ramp up efforts and expand their global or local awareness?
Play to your strengths. Showcase everything your city has to offer. Always invest in your city—no matter how small—which will in turn draw awareness and positive coverage. Generate as much good news about your destination as possible. For instance, we host a variety of key influencers and media throughout the year to create ongoing and consistent “buzz” about the destination. Creative initiatives are crucial to success.
Who do you consider your biggest competitors for international travelers, and why?
Any vacation spot—including warm-weather locations such as the Caribbean, New Orleans, Phoenix and Los Angeles—all are relevant competitors to Miami Beach. As for visitors to our shores, we have travelers from Brazil and South America, as well as Canada. They have a variety of options for holiday and winter travel, but Miami Beach continuously draws visitors in because we are an international hot spot with world-class amenities, hotels, restaurants, shopping and beaches.
What do travelers heading to Miami Beach in the coming years have to look forward to? Are there any new developments on the horizon?
There’s a lot to be excited about: the reopening of the convention center, for one, which just got a $500 million makeover. The extensive renovations demonstrate that Miami Beach is a premier destination for meetings, events and festivals. When complete, the center will have 505,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space, including a newly added 60,000-square-foot grand ballroom, three 20,000-square-foot junior ballrooms, 59,000 sq. ft. of breakout meeting spaces, 806 onsite rooftop parking spaces and an additional 12 acres of surrounding parks and landscaped areas.