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The pace of growth has slowed over the past two years, but the rate of spending has increased as luxury visitors stay longer and spend more making their presence all the more significant.

Miami-Dade continued its streak of record-setting tourism numbers last year, welcoming 14.2 million overnight visitors.

Brazil and other Latin American markets such as Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela continued to show strength, contributing to a total of 7.13 million international guests, up 4.4 percent from the previous year. The number of domestic visitors was nearly flat, increasing less than half a percent to reach 7.09 million people.

It was the fourth year in a row of record tourism numbers for Miami-Dade.

“We consider it one of our greatest challenges to sustain that, but we’re confident we can,” said Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

While the pace of growth has slowed — the total is a 2.2 percent increase over 2012, compared to nearly 7 percent growth in 2011 — local tourism boosters pointed to other key figures as evidence of a successful shift.

“What’s happening is that as we have become more of a luxury destination, what those visitors spend goes up,” said William Talbert III, president and CEO of the tourism bureau. According to an announcement Wednesday, visitor expenditures increased 4.6 percent to reach $22.8 billion. Average daily rates increased more than 8 percent to nearly $177.

“I’m concerned about what they’re spending and the type of visitor that it is,” Talbert said. “The visitors that we’re getting are more of a luxury visitor.”

Statewide and elsewhere in South Florida, 2013 was also record-setting. Preliminary estimates from Visit Florida said 94.7 million people visited the state last year, the most ever. In Broward, visitor numbers increased nearly 9 percent to a record 13.1 million, with tourists spending more than $10.6 billion.

In Miami-Dade, the tourism bureau attributed the increases to additional flights from key markets, including locations in Brazil, its own sales and marketing efforts worldwide.

Aedo said the bureau is expanding its efforts in Europe, which has lagged to due a recession, and is looking to emerging markets in the Middle East and India for future growth. In June, Qatar Airways will start flying four times a week between Doha and Miami, which may open up previously untapped markets.

(c)2014 The Miami Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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Tags: luxury, miami

Photo credit: Blue skies at Miami's beaches. Ed Webster / Flickr

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