Tourism in Miami Heating Up

Miami’s tourism sector has been on a serious upswing for the past few years. The city, and wider state of Florida, saw higher-than-nationwide average visits throughout the course of the pandemic.

Driven in part by loose COVID restrictions, tourism was up nearly every quarter since the pandemic began, and these trends are only accelerating now that international travel is returning and airport staffing challenges slow down. With plenty of people heading to the Sunshine State to enjoy Miami’s beaches, nightlife, and shopping, we dove into the foot traffic to better understand the city’s tourism surge.

Welcome To Miami

Miami International Airport (MIA) is currently on track to process over 50 million annual passengers in 2022, higher than its pre-pandemic record of 49.5 million annual passengers in 2019. And the airport is not just breaking its own records, but it has seen its foot traffic consistently elevated. In a comparison between MIA’s foot traffic to the top four busiest airports in the country – Atlanta, Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Seattle – Miami’s airport came out ahead of the curve for every month when compared to 2019 levels. 

Similarly, comparing foot traffic to MIA with visits to other major Florida airports showed a relative imperviousness to the struggles seen by the wider aviation industry. The airport never saw its foot traffic dip into the negative, while other airports analyzed – both in Florida and nationwide – are still struggling to catch up to their pre-pandemic numbers. 

The Miami Moment 

Meanwhile, Miami tourism surged throughout the pandemic, with visits above 2019 levels for most months analyzed. Concurrent with the hotter summer months came a slowdown in local tourists, but an uptick in national tourists. June and July 2022 may have seen fewer year-over-three year (Yo3Y) visits from local tourists, but foot traffic from national visitors rose 25.7% and 32.6%, respectively, relative to June and July 2019. Yo3Y visits in August were up significantly, with a 36.6% increase in national tourists. 

The shifts in local versus national tourists is most likely a result of COVID travel restrictions – with nearly all international entry requirements finally lifted, Miami locals may be heading for long-awaited overseas vacations, making room for tourists from other parts of the United States to explore the city. 

Getting Cultural 

People often associate Miami with places like Muscle Beach, clubs in South Beach, or the city’s many open-air shopping centers –  but Miami also offers an exciting array of cultural attractions. The city, which has a thriving art scene, attracts thousands to its annual Art Basel show and boasts excellent galleries and museums. 

The love for culture can be seen in the foot traffic as well – an analysis of several popular destinations for the arts and culture showed impressive Yo3Y visits, especially when compared to museums nationwide. The Perez Art Museum, which features modern and contemporary art has rallied impressively, narrowing its Yo3Y visit gap to just 0.6% in July, and increasing to 12.6% more visitors in August. And the Wynwood Art District, featuring a famous outdoor graffiti museum, saw its August foot traffic increase 10.1% relative to the equivalent month in 2019. 

Shopping In The 305 

Miami is a mecca for shopaholics, and for good reason. The city boasts several large malls – Aventura in northeast Miami, the Brickell City Center in Downtown Miami, and many outdoor shopping areas. Among the most well known is the Design District, which features a wide array of designer clothing stores, eateries, exciting architecture, and galleries. 

The Design District performed well in a Yo3Y comparison, with June, July, and August 2022 enjoying 29.3%, 42.5%, and 40.6% more visitors than 2019. The Design District’s outdoor setting also makes it an excellent pandemic choice for those wishing to get out of their homes while still adhering to some pandemic safety measures.

Many luxury stores in the district also outperformed their 2019 visits. Looking at a sample of some of the most well-known stores in the venue showed increases in foot traffic – August 2022 saw Yo3Y visits elevated 176.8%, 31.2%, 46.0%, 153.7%, and 10.6% for Hermes, Gucci, Valentino, Rolex, and Cartier, respectively. 

Brickell City Center, located in the heart of Miami’s downtown area, also saw impressive visit boosts, with July 2022 seeing 11.9% more visits to the mall on a Yo3Y basis, while August saw a negligible visit gap of 1.0%. The center plays the role as lifestyle hub for the rapidly expanding downtown area, with plenty of restaurants, gyms, clothing and lifestyle stores. As Miami’s business and tech sector expands rapidly, this well-situated mall can hope to see its foot traffic continue ticking upward.

Continued Strength in the Sunshine State

Miami saw plenty of tourists during the pandemic, and is enjoying the ripple effects of that elevated tourism, with its airports, cultural institutions, and shopping centers benefitting from the influx of tourists to the city. Now, as life settles into its new normal, will the city continue to see its foot traffic grow?

Visit Placer.ai to find out. 

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