More Visitors but Too Many Rooms: Miami's Hotel Industry May Be in for a Bumpy Ride

A record 15.5 million people visited Miami in 2015, up nearly 1 million from the previous year. The Greater Miami & the Beaches Visitors Bureau trumpeted the numbers at a ritzy breakfast this past Friday at the Rusty Pelican on Key Biscayne. Save for Venezuela, every major market, both domestic and international, saw their influx of visitors to Miami increase. Even Brazilian tourism increased after a bit of a downturn in 2014. Together, those visitors dropped an estimated $24.4 billion into the local economy. 

That all seemed like great news, but already there are grumblings that Miami's hotel industry may be in for a bumpy adjustment period. 

Sure, the average price for a night's stay in Miami was up $11 to $195.75, and, sure, occupancy was up slightly to 78.1 percent in 2015. 

But the numbers from the first three months of 2016 aren't encouraging. 

According to Bloomberg News, hotel revenue per available room (or RevPAR, as its known in short) was down 2.7 percent in the first three months of 2016 compared to the same period last year. Nationally, RevPAR ebbed up 2.7 percent. Occupancy in Miami was down 1.9 percent. Average room rates also dipped 1.7 percent. 

A relatively mild winter in the Northeast was partially to blame. The New York City area is Miami's single largest market for visitors. New Yorkers accounted for 2.1 million visitors in 2015, but those numbers tend to decrease when there are not as many weeks of unbearably frigid winter winds pushing Northerners down here. 

The Brazilian tourist influx also seemed to have cooled off already in 2015. But that has nothing to do with weather and everything to do with the nation's economic uncertainty. Pair all of that with the fact that the Miami Beach Convention Center is undergoing renovations, and there's an explanation for the decreased numbers. 

The larger cause for concern, though, is the sheer number of hotel rooms either under construction or in the planning stages. 

"Hotels either being built, scheduled to start construction in the next 12 months, or in the early planning stage account for 29.3 percent of the existing market in Miami," Bloomberg says. "In the top 25 U.S. markets, the pipeline represents just 14.6 percent." 

Indeed, it wasn't particularly difficult for us to put together a list of the "most exciting Miami hotel openings of 2016" earlier this year. Notable openings include the 352-room East hotel, which will be part of Brickell City Centre; Me Miami, opening in downtown this summer; and SLS Brickell. 

Notably, however, much of that growth is happening off Miami Beach. Of the 2,128 rooms slated to open this year, only 186 are on the Beach. 

Many of the sources quoted in the Bloomberg article see the downturn as more of an adjustment period than a harbinger of doom, and industry insiders are still clamoring to invest in local hotels, especially on the beach. 

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