Latin Grammy Loss Hurts Miami's Pride, Pocketbook

By | August 22, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Hoteliers, restaurateurs and tourism promoters mourned the loss of the $40 million bonanza that the now-decamped Latin Grammy awards show was expected to bring to the Miami area.

But what really has them crying in their Cristal Roederer is the blow to the city’s image.

The Latin Grammy organizers said Monday that they were moving the glitzy Sept. 11 award show to Los Angeles because of worries that protests against artists from communist Cuba could threaten the safety of performers and spectators.

“The perception of Miami in the international community is greatly damaged by this,” said Leslie Zigel, vice president of business and marketing for BMG Entertainment Latin America in Coral Gables, Florida.

When Miami was chosen in April as the show’s location, Alex Penelas, mayor of Miami-Dade County, hailed the opportunity to “confirm and cement even harder Miami’s position in the international community and as the Latin music capital.”

Some 10,000 visitors were expected to flock to the area, bringing a windfall that Penelas estimated at $35 million to $40 million.

At the luxurious new Mandarin Oriental hotel in Miami, the $4,500 presidential suite was booked for the whole week. Across the bay in south Miami Beach, where the trendy restaurants, hot clubs and beachfront hotels are clustered, VIP party rooms were reserved, blocks of rooms set aside, limousines hired, caterers chosen.

TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT

“Any group coming to the city, everybody benefits,” said Lisa Cole, spokeswoman for the 1,200-room Fontainebleau Hilton resort on Miami Beach. “You have taxicabs, they’re driving them around, they’re making money. Your stores are making money, everything from your local mom-and-pop restaurant to the grocery store or Walgreens. More people in town, they’re spending money.”

Tourism promoters salivated at the thought of showing off the beaches and the neon night life to a television audience projected at 800 million viewers worldwide. The Greater Miami Convention and Visitor’s Bureau could not normally afford such star-studded endorsements.

But instead of rolling out the red carpet, Miami rolled out the red menace, and the Grammys went west.

“The ones most clearly hurt are hotels, limousine companies, shops and restaurants – anyone who provides ancillary services,” Zigel said.

“It really hurts the community when we fought so hard to bring them here,” said Jeffrey Abbaticchio, spokesman for the oceanfront Loews Miami Beach Hotel, where some of the 790 rooms and suites were block-booked for Grammy guests.

“I think it hurts the image more than anything else,” he added.

The Latin Grammys were to have been “the high-profile event” in September, a traditionally slow month for Florida tourism, said Brad Packer, spokesman for the Island Outpost chain of boutique hotels.

“The majority of our South Beach room inventory in our five properties was dedicated to and already booked for the Latin Grammy show,” Packer said. “Making such a last-minute change raises a lot of eyebrows.”

One hotel that will not feel the pinch from the Grammy pullout, however, is the Fontainebleau. Its rooms were booked solid that weekend by the United States Conference on AIDS before the Grammys agreed to come to Miami.

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