is a city best known for its vices, such as fun-in-the-South-Beach-sun, nights
out at any one of its famous clubs and, of course, a certain namesake TV show
and movie. However, recent additions to the city's landscape, including ParrotJungleIsland and the Miami Skylift helium
balloon ride, are making Miami
a more family-friendly destination. The question is: Are clients interested? A
tiger lounges at the Metrozoo (top); the Seaquarium's new "Swim With Our
Dolphins" program is a hit (above)
Maggie Blehert, a spokesperson with Carlson Wagonlit Travel
Associates, says agents she spoke with report receiving a wealth of information
from the SunnyCity's family attractions. Furthermore,
a recent CWT survey of 507 franchise owners, managers and agents released
earlier this month also reveals Miami and Miami Beach jumping from number 13 to
number seven on travelers' vacation destination wish lists for 2007—but that
doesn't mean the two trends are correlated.
"It's interesting because the indications are that it
is a popular destination, but it is not as well known as a family
destination," Blehert says. "Miami
is definitely making a push, but traveling there does depend on the family's
budget. People just usually think of Walt Disney World first for families."
David Whitaker, executive vice president and chief marketing
officer for the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, is aware of this
fact and attributes the renewed interest in Miami to an evolving family, rather than an
evolving destination. "We're not so presumptuous as to try to compete with
the core family attractions of central Florida,"
he says. Instead, Miami's
new and existing attractions are drawing hip baby boomers and their culturally
brand essence always has been more of a cosmopolitan lifestyle with high-energy
activities," he notes. "You have people interested in great
restaurants and hip places to go, but tagging along with them are
The new and existing attractions in Miami reflect this. In the last few years,
the city has seen a surge in activities for children, as well as family-centric
hotel packages. In 2007, the city's Seaquarium debuted its new dolphin habitat
and its Metrozoo opened a new $35 million Tropical America exhibit.
The Loews Miami Beach now has its "Loews Loves
Kids" program, which gives welcome gifts to children under 10 and offers
supervised recreational programs, lending game libraries and special children's
menus. Likewise, pint-sized visitors at the Mandarin Oriental Miami are greeted
with a welcome gift, as well as their own bathroom amenities and bathrobes.
Too, Whitaker says Miami
enchants children—especially teens and preteens—thanks to the events and
celebrities who frequent the city. MTV hosted its Video Music Awards in Miami in 2005, drawing
teen idols and heartthrobs like Gwen Stefani and Orlando Bloom.
"Being a hip and happening place has always been our
brand," Whitaker says. "Having the VMAs come to Miami was part of that brand coming
So what about Miami's attributes that could be deemed by
some as not so family-friendly, such as the city's hard partying nightlife and
its gay and lesbian culture? That's not going away either, Whitaker says.
"We don't want to be myopic. That would eliminate others
that are coming here," he says. "Whatever you're into, we want you to
be into it here."
If a client has any hesitations about Miami
as a full-fledged vacation destination, CWT's Blehert notes that Miami also serves as a
port for many cruises. "We do know that people are cruising out of Miami, and in that sense,
families are probably coming out of the port," she says. "We talk a
lot about adding pre-and post-cruise itineraries, and Miami has millions of people going through
the port every year, so there is a lot of potential there.