THE BLOG
04/09/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Still Cool: Super Bowl Victory Also a Boon to Miami's Rebounding Tourism Industry

It's not just New Orleans residents and Saints fans who have reason to cheer Sunday's victory, but some -- if not all -- hotel, club and restaurant owners in Miami-Dade's tourist mecca, Miami Beach, even if the influx of Super Bowl visitors wasn't all that they'd hoped for this past weekend. Prices at the new W hotel and other luxury resorts topped $1,000 a night, and at the swank oasis, the Setai, $2500 for a one-bedroom suite.

Still, some owners complained shortly before this weekend that they weren't getting they business they expected, as the Miami Herald reported on January 30th:

The Super Bowl will add about $153 million to South Florida's economy this year, about a 25 percent drop from the last time the big game was in town, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report from the hotel consultancy should cheer Super Bowl boosters, who see the game as an economic windfall, even though the estimate falls a bit short of organizers' claims of the game's spending heft.

In 2007, when the Colts played the Bears in South Florida's last Super Bowl, PwC put the game's impact at $195 million. Thanks to the recession, that remains an NFL record for PwC's annual tally.

When the Super Bowl came to Tampa last year -- months after the worldwide financial crisis began -- the game generated about $150 million, PwC said.

``Spending will once again be constrained by prevailing economic conditions; however, compared to last year, South Florida will benefit from the return of several Super Bowl-related hospitality events, the higher hotel room rates in South Florida versus Tampa and a larger stadium capacity,'' wrote Robert Canton, director of PWC's sports and tourism division.

While large hotels report near sell-outs for Super Bowl weekend, others say they're disappointed by weak demand . Anbritt Stengele, whose website sportstraveler.net sells Super Bowl packages, said in recent days she's been contacted by hotels anxious to fill beds they thought would be booked by now.

I had the good fortune to visit Miami Beach two weeks before the Super Bowl to visit friends after leaving the town six years ago, and thanks to some dogged search for Web travel deals (shaped in part by the after-shocks of the recession), I was able to find some great bargains. These included a round-trip flight from Washington to Miami for $169, and a stay at a first-class Art Deco hotel on South Beach, the Hotel Astor for under $100 a night for a weekend, before taxes. The sleek, modern interiors of the rooms plus a first-rate restaurant and a helpful staff, all a short walk from the beach, made for a high-end experience at a budget price. By Super Bowl weekend, my same room would shoot up to about $400 a night, if not more.

Surprisingly, despite seeing one key marker of tourism plunge by nearly 25% during 2009 -- per-room revenues -- the signs of a rebound could be seen in some of the most popular locations in South Beach. Lincoln Road was packed with residents and tourists, and certain bars and restaurants that had been popular when I was there were still drawing crowds -- like a gourmet pizza shop, Pizza Rustica, or the Van Dyke restaurant with its sidewalk cafe underneath the upstairs music club playing live Latin jazz.

One sign of the South Beach's returning confidence was in the continuing arrogance of bouncers at trendy nightclubs like the Set on Lincoln Road, formerly the site of the Living Room and countless other clubs that come and go like fireflies in South Beach. The appearance of elite cool was still the same, with dark-suited doormen glaring at you from behind velvet ropes, even if I used a press contact to get permission to enter. But there weren't long lines, and despite the hype, few of the crowd inside were glamorous as long as they had the $25 cover charge needed to enter. The only seating -- a ring of couches and some tables upstairs -- was granted only to those willing to shell out about $1,000 for two bottles of liquor and tips, according to one sullen bouncer who angrily told me to stop taking notes quietly on the side. There were virtually no high-rollers seated anywhere, with just one group of young women celebrating what was presumably a bachelorette party.

To my surprise, the newest and one of the priciest hotels, W, had a comparable no-entry policy for would-be visitors on a weekend. I feel sorry, though, for the hotel's management if one of their hip doormen turns away a dorky baby-boomer in unfashionable clothing who turns out to be Bill Gates, but the strict policy is apparently designed to keep out riff-raff. Unless you had proof that you were a guest, were registering to stay or, maybe, visiting someone at the hotel, you couldn't even get in to the lobby -- unless of course you were a nightclub circuit insider or strikingly good-looking. I didn't qualify on any count, but by claiming (justly) to be doing an article, managed to bluff my way in to the inner sanctums of wealth and luxury, going past one velvet rope after another until I and an attorney friend were allowed to sit poolside and order drinks. But the $30 Manhattan (including tip) my friend ordered was "terrible," he reported, and as the wind started up and, even in Florida, gave us a bit of a chill, it was soon time to leave. Before we left, though, he turned back his untouched cocktail and was given a diet Pepsi he'd requested instead -- but no refund or complimentary cocktail.

Yet on Super Bowl weekend, real superstars came to town, and unlike a mere tourist, they didn't have to wait behind any velvet ropes or flash a reporter's notebook to make it inside, and almost everything was comped for them. By next weekend, prices at most hotels will likely plummet, but the allure of South Beach will remain. Here, for instance, is a list of some of the parties (via the website cooljunkie. com) on South Beach few of us are either well-connected enough or willing to blow enough money to attend:

That's right people, Super Bowl weekend is finally days away and this year Miami is lucky enough to host the colossal sport event. While this is a huge boost to the economy in the city, it's also creates a great opportunity for promoters throughout the city to put on really great events and show all the visitors what Miami nightlife is all about. Events are still coming in for this weekend's festivities, but we've managed to narrow down the list for you a bit to bring the only the best Super Bowl Parties in Miami.

Event: Rihanna
Venue: Mansion
Date: Thursday, Feb. 4th

This just in...Rihanna's in town this week! That's right people, one of the biggest pop singers on the planet will be in Miami on Thursday night and hosting an event at one of the hottest nightclubs that South Beach has to offer, Mansion. This is definitely one of the top super bowl parties in Miami, so expect this one to be sold-out. We're not entirely sure if she's going to be performing, but if she's in the house, expect her to jump on the mic for at least a word or two. Who knows, if you're lucky enough she may just bust out a tune.

Event: Friday Night Lights
Venue: BED
Date: Friday, Feb. 5th

If there's one event that really represents Miami football to the fullest it has to be Friday Night Lights at BED with special guest hosts Santana and Sinorice Moss. The Moss brothers are royalty in Miami, seeing as they're legends in both high school and college football. This is definitely one of the top Super Bowl parties of the huge weekend ahead of us, and you can definitely expect this event to bring in some football greats that are from Miami.

Event: Ludacris
Venue: Cameo
Date: Friday, Feb. 5th

Cameo's bringing in a big artist for this week's Super Bowl weekend, and we expect this event to draw in massive fans of the hip hop star. This Friday night the one and only Ludacris does his thing at Cameo. Cameo's been bringing in some great hip hop names to the club, and they've all been performing, so we'll go ahead and say that we expect Luda to do his thing on the mic. We know that he's a huge fan of sports, but we really didn't think he'd be in town to perform as well.

Event: DJ Clue's Birthday
Venue: BED
Date: Saturday, Feb. 6th

BED really outdid itself this Super Bowl by hosting what we think is the best string of events that the weekend has to offer. We usually never list a venue twice in our TOP articles, however, we just had to this week with BED since Saturday's event is just as good as Fridays. This Saturday they'll be celebrating the special birthday of the one and only DJ Clue, along with special host Warren Sapp. The music on this night will probably outshine the rest of the Super Bowl events in the city, and that's because Clue will be in the house.

Despite all the glamor and the great weather, the Super Bowl broadcast itself didn't turn into the free promotion for Miami that local tourist officials were hoping for, but visitors there -- especially when prices come back down to normal levels -- are going to come back. So Super Bowl was a clear win for Miami's image and the local economy , which is still reeling from foreclosures and the recessionary downturn, but now on the way to recovery.

The Super Bowl telecast didn't showcase Miami or its beaches, the Miami Herald reported, but that still won't stop the comeback:

This time, the Super Bowl weather conspired in South Florida's favor. As the Mid-Atlantic dug out from a historic blizzard, a television audience expected to top 100 million people saw a far different climate as a mild, cloudless evening greeted football's biggest game.

It was an about face from Super Bowl's last trip to South Florida, when a rare and relentless February downpour drenched the stands in 2007.

"I couldn't have fixed that better myself,'' Tony Goldman, a South Beach hotelier and former chairman of the Greater Miami tourism bureau, said of the weekend snowstorm and cold snap. "I'm in New York. It's about 17 degrees.''

Even so, viewers of Sunday night's broadcast could be forgiven if they forgot where this Super Bowl was played. Announcers mentioned the word "Miami'' only a handful of times. And the first live shot CBS showed outside of Sun Life Stadium was not of South Beach or a palm tree, but of Bourbon Street in the moments after New Orleans won the championship.

For a game that will cost local taxpayers more than $6 million, Super Bowl has always touted itself as a good investment for the exposure it brings a host city.

"You read the stories about how much those commercials sell for,'' said Peter Yesawich, chairman of Y Partnership, an Orlando firm that manages tourism campaigns in cities throughout Florida. "Destinations kill for that.''

This year the publicity took on more importance as South Florida considers a proposal to spend tax dollars to make Sun Life Stadium a more attractive venue for the Super Bowl. Without a partial roof and other improvements costing about $200 million, the Miami Dolphins warn that it will be harder to lure the Super Bowl to South Florida -- robbing the destination of both the tourist dollars the game brings and the free publicity it spawns.

This year, more than 4,500 members of the media from 22 countries received Super Bowl credentials, organizers said. ESPN, NFL Networks and the CBS Early Show broadcast live from South Beach in the days leading up to the game. A pack of celebrities making the weekend Super Bowl party circuit generated untold inches of gossip-column fodder.

But when Super Bowl actually kicked off Sunday evening, viewers saw the game and basically nothing else.

When the playing stopped, CBS filled the gaps with quick segments on the teams and shots from the sidelines -- viewers didn't even get glances of celebrities sitting in the stands.

And with a 30-second Super Bowl spot selling for more than $2 million, CBS apparently did not want to waste lucrative time reminding viewers where the game was played. During the game, there were no shots of South Florida scenery -- shots that can turn a sporting event into a rolling tourism commercial.

"In the past, we've had those great cutaways,'' said Bruce Turkel, a partner at the Turkel advertising agency in Coconut Grove. "But I guess every moment is too precious now.''

CBS had the option to cushion its commercial breaks with local landmarks: the post-game show includes an aerial shot of Ocean Drive.

Still, the image of fans in short sleeves in the open air of Sun Life Stadium sent the right message, said Turkel, who crafts the advertising campaigns for the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.