On August 9, the Miami Herald reported that hotel taxes dropped 24% in February, compared to a 17% drop in January. This is serious guys. With all the economic worries, it's assumed that tourism will drop, but when it's a lifeblood of the local economy, this spells disaster. Looking at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor's Bureau's, 2007 Economic Impact study 17,117.9 billion dollars was generated by tourism in 2007, feeding jobs and economic growth. With these numbers dropping through the floors, not only will South Beach be a bit quieter, but so will all the rest of the city, as monies dry up for community improvement.
If that's not enough, the bureau's findings on employment in the tourism sector shows that jobs have been steadily declining since March of 2008.
What does that mean for the 5th poorest city in the United States? It means that we have a huge problem looming over us. This is not the time for one of our primary industries to tank. So what does Miami-Dade and the State of Florida do about this? This is what I think. The city and state need to work together to create a long-term strategic plan to bring people back into Miami. We can no longer rely on our pretty beaches and palm trees to make money for us. We need to become a city that lures businesses in, but that is going to take more than tax breaks.
I challenge anyone to tell me why someone would want to relocate a business to an area with a bleeding school system, one of the lowest levels of college graduates in the country, a transient work force and a prime location for hurricanes. Of this list, only one is out of our control. If we create a system where education and community service are priorities, and skilled workers are compensated on the same average as their peers in other parts of the country, we will see more people remaining in our community. We will cultivate future community leaders who will give back in time, volunteerism or donations to organizations that reach out to under-served communities. We will also show the rest of the country that Miami is worth investing in, bringing business to our shores and thus bringing in a long-term thriving work force, who realize we are more than Wet Willies, Miami Vice and South Beach.
Clearly these are not the only things that need to be done, but we need to be proactive and look at the first things that need to be changed now in order to bring long-term stable profitability into our community.