The VCA: Improving the Miami Beach Experience

By Elsie Howard….

Elsie Howard

The Miami Beach Visitors and Convention Authority has been promoting tourism in Miami Beach since 1967, when it was created by Chapter 67-930 of the Laws of Florida and Sections 102-246 through, and including 102-254 of the Code of Miami Beach. The VCA is funded directly through resort taxes, as an independent tourism promotion agency. VCA members are volunteers who are nominated by the Miami Beach Commission and include: Steve Adkins, Debbie Castillo, , Jacque Hertz, Elsie Howard, Jeff Lehman, Micky Steinberg, Keith Menin. Recent past members include Steven Haas, Sidney Goldin, Leslie Zigel, Wendy Hart, and Diego Lowenstein. Members represent the hospitality industry and the community at large.

Tourists who visit Miami Beach pay resort taxes – bed taxes, food and beverage taxes as well. The VCA only receives revenue that is generated by tourist taxes, so the VCA invests heavily in events that bring visitors — “heads in beds” — reinvesting in the future of tourism. The VCA receives 5% of the 2% of these resort taxes; The City of Miami Beach retains the rest. IN 2009- 10, the VCA’S investment of $1 million brought over $34 million directly to the City of Miami Beach budget.

Many of the events have a special discounted rate for Miami Beach Residents. Last year VCA sponsored 1383 events, created 2377 jobs, filled 28,525 hotel rooms, engaged 4,852,100 overnight visitors, at an average daily hotel rate of $184.10, generated over 27 billionmedia impressions and generated over one billion viewers on network and cable television. More than 77, 857 people attended VCA sponsored events; 34 per cent of those attending events were residents, 23 percent were regional visitors and 43 percent were visitors.

In good tourist years and in off-years, the VCA has remained committed to investing its budget wisely—in events , yes, but also in brand promotion of the Miami Beach legend — advertising Miami Beach gets for free. And the millions of dollars that result from bed tax revenue goes directly to the bottom line of the City’s budget – holding taxes down, and paying for vital city services.

Grants often begin as seed money to first-time events that have the potential to grow, with VCA also providing professional support and advice, building partnerships that are offered to all applicants. The VCA is often “the funding arm of the CMB,” supporting transformative major events and working to keep them here — including Art Basel.

Other events, programs and projects launched by the VCA include the Miami Beach way finding signage, local customer service training for the hospitality industry, South Beach Wine and Food, the ING Marathon, Funkshion – Miami Beach Fashion Week, Miami Beach Polo Championships, Miami Beach September Sports Series, South Beach Comedy Festival and ING Marathon. A list of VCA supported events and projects also includes the Boat Show, Nautica South Beach Triathlon, SwimShow, World Music Conference and Design Miami to name a few.

The VCA’s support makes a critical difference for community projects and quality of life programs for residents, including the Chamber of Commerce Guest services, the Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, The Latin Chamber, Shane Watersports, The Miami Beach Police department. The many projects made possible by the VCA in 2009 include the Art Deco art exhibit in MIA, the Egyptian gallery at Bass, Sleepless Nights, the 25/7 Marketing campaign and the essay contests for Miami Beach students.

For the past ten years, the VCA annually writes and distributes to city leadership an extensive Program of Work, including a written review and breakdown of all grants funded, as well as an analysis of success and an audited financial statement. It is available to the public, along with grant requirements, on the VCA website The VCA holds an annual strategic planning retreat, reviewing grant format, issues and opportunities and priorities for the year ahead.

The VCA’s budget projection is provided by the City and is a projection for the year ahead. Of course, when the VCA funds grants, it is very cautious and fiscally responsible in order to cover the funding of grants outstanding. The VCA only funds grants upon completion, after the delivery of receipts and audited accounts from the grant recipients. Of course the Board continues to be vigilant, concerned about global economic conditions, possible flight disruptions, weather (those dreaded storms), crime and terrorism. All meetings are held “in the sunshine” and the VCA welcomes city residents and leaders at all meetings, which are ‘noticed’ in the newspaper.

The VCA ‘s Board members as well as executive Director, Grisette Roque Marcos, and Eileen de la Cuesta, who staff VCA activities, also provide leadership in community collaborations – including the City , the MB Police Department, the Chambers of Commerce, Shane Watersports, the CAC , the Hotel & Restaurant Association, the MB Convention Center, the Chamber of Commerce, the Miami Beach hospitality high school programs and the marketing committee of the GMCVB.. Working as a team, together with community leaders, the VCA provides leadership and support for the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Tourism, established to take action in the face of a tourism economic slowdown. This Taskforce generated the InCard, the Shop Miami Beach Banners, the “For your protection” signage, the beautification of the east end of Lincoln Road, the essay contest for Miami Beach schoolchildren and more.

Members and staff of the Miami Beach VCA are proud of their sustained collaborative vision, fiscal responsibility, strategic commitment, community involvement and city leadership, their public service that continues to make a major difference in the quality of life for residents and visitors to one of the world’s most fabulous cities.

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1 Comment on "The VCA: Improving the Miami Beach Experience"

  1. It is very interesting to read about what goes on behind the scenes to make Miami Beach the world famous destination it is. I think we take it for granted, but it hasn't happened by accident. The branding of a whole city is a fascinating process to learn about.

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