City officials, business leaders, tourist experts, and members of the community all flocked to the Miami Beach Convention Center recently for the grand opening of “Visit Miami Beach,” the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce’s relocated and newly expanded tourism information center.
“What a grand night this is! The center is located right here in the convention center, and will be a place that will offer guidance to visitors and also provide them with information. We’ve got all the good stuff right here now,” said Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, who was among the crowd that flocked to the Sept. 20 event.
The event marked the center’s official opening. It had moved to the site a few months before, marking the first time the city has had a full-service visitor’s center located in the Miami Beach Convention Center.
“This is a very exciting day for the whole community. We are proud that this is the face that will welcome visitors. This center will be the personality and smile that greets them,” said Jerry Libbin, Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO noting that the new center represents a historic partnership between the Chamber, the City of Miami Beach, the Miami Beach Convention Center (GMCVB) and the Miami Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It’s important to make our visitors and our tourists feel welcome in our world class city and Visit Miami Beach fulfills that mission,” added Jason Loeb, chairman of the Chamber.
The center also marks the coming together of various segments of the tourism community, speakers noted at the event.
“This is an historic first. We’ve had the convention center here since 1956, and this is the first time we’ve had a full-service convention center here. We are an investor in this project and we are very proud of it,” said William D. Talbert III, president and CEO of the GMCVB.
“This is a great facility for a five-star city,” agreed Bob Balsam, Miami Beach Convention Center’s general manager, saying that the move to expand the center had been overdue, but will now help the city keep pace with similar services offered by other top destinations.
And, even in today’s technological age, the personal touch that the center provides has become even more important, noted Steve Haas, chairman of the GMCVB and the owner of City Hall the Restaurant in Miami.
“The Visit Miami Beach center is extremely important. Many people research destinations beforehand on the Internet, but many also come and look for us in person, to tell them about places to go and interesting things to do,” he noted.
His view was echoed by local businessman and former Miami Beach Commissioner Saul Gross, who said, “I wish Dona Zemo and her team the best in opening this center that will provide a great service to the community.”
In fact, the idea of locating “Visit Miami Beach” in the convention center is already paying off, said Dona Zemo, the center’s director. “Our major objective was not only to serve the leisure traveler, but the business traveler as well. Now, people who attend conventions are coming to us for everything. We are providing a service to tourists, and a service to people using the convention center,” she said, adding, “We’ve added a whole new group of travelers—the business traveler.” She also noted that the center is ideally situated to augment the other tourist information facilities in town, which are the Miami Beach Latin Chamber of Commerce and the M i a m i Design and Preservation League’s centers, located on Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive respectively.
The center’s staff includes Dona Zemo and Monique Beaudet, the assistant director who, between them, have more than 30 years of experience serving Miami Beach visitors. Other staff members include Visitor Specialists Matthew Perl and Sarabeth Beitchman, along with interns from Miami Beach High School’s Tourism Academy and the Florida International University’s School of Hospitality.
The center also will carry a full line of traveler’s necessities, including retail items, like souvenirs, cards by local artists, posters, t-shirts, guidebooks, maps, event brochures, as well as sundry items. In addition, the center is the sole distributor of the Miami Beach InCard, and “Go Miami,” a discount tourism program.
Many businesses and organizations also displayed their wares or distributed material at the event. Lucky Tattoo showed off its body painted model and also bedecked guests with the Visit Miami Beach logo, the Deco Bike bike sharing exhibited one of their bikes, Segway Tours rode around the event, and representatives from Costco passed out food samples. In addition, representatives of Ability Explosion were on hand to publicize their upcoming event later this month and Jungle Island delighted crowds with their baby chimp and alligator. , Centerplate provided appetizers and Schnebly Redland Winery poured a variety of fruit wines for the attendees to sample. DJ Jeff Greene of 84 West Studios provided the music.
The center is located in Hall C of the convention center and is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, seven days a week, but will remain open late into the evening, and also offer satellite services in other center halls during conventions.
Text and photos by Charlotte Libov and Henry Perez of Sobe Fabulous. Charlotte Libov, whose work has appeared in Ocean Drive magazine, American Airline’s magazine “American way,” Florida Travel + Life, and many other publications, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Henry Perez provides photographic services to corporate clients, as well as covering public events, private parties, portrait and nightlife photography. Contact Henry Perez Photography at 305-908-2768 or via e-mail at email@example.com.