Shopping Foreign Tourists Are Miami's Economic Saviors

Despite the fact that the unemployment rate in Miami remains savagely high, there's some emerging signs that certain segments of our economy are bouncing back. The tourism industry has been doing surprisingly well over the summer, leading some to wonder if tourist season now extends year round. Room booking rates are only expected to grow over the second half of the year.

Meanwhile, retail sales are booming and developers are taking notice.

Miami Today reports that even after a strong first half of the year, the tourism industry expects a seven percent jump in hotel occupancy during the second half of 2011. The reason? Foreigners, especially Europeans and Latin Americans, love to travel here.

"Nearly half of Greater Miami's visitors come from outside the US, so the area hasn't been hurt as much as other destinations that rely more on domestic visitors bearing the brunt of the recession," reports the weekly.

You hear that America? We don't need (that much) of your money. We've got foreign sugar daddies with sexy accents.

The hospitality industry claimed it employed a record breaking 108,000 people in July 2011, up 3.4 percent from July 2010.

Perhaps all those tourists, eager to spend money in America with a weak dollar, has something to do with our retail renascence. The Miami Herald reports that despite a slow down in retail in the rest of the state, Miami stores are doing relatively fine.

Miami is the only market in Florida where the occupancy rate is above 90 percent, and retail rental rates are above an average of $18 ($21.84 per-square-foot to be exact). In fact, retail store vacancy has dropped during each of the five past quarters.

"Miami is on fire," said Greg Masin, senior director of retail services at Cushman & Wakefield, told the paper. "The phone is ringing with retailers who want to be here. Some people are still hurting, but in general this town is healthier than people give us credit for."

Which of course means developers are taking notice, and planning more commercial projects. Businesses like big box stores, dollar stores and fast casual restaurants are looking for new space.

Of course, we should have learned by now that tourism, shopping and real estate does not a complete, steady economy make, but its good to know that our old economic workhorses are showing signs of new life.

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Kyle Munzenrieder