Miami looks forward to ASTA 2003

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MIAMI -- Greater Miami, which hosted ASTA's 1989 World Travel Congress and attracted 7,065 delegates -- the best turnout since Rome in 1985 -- is expected to attract more than 8,000 when ASTA convenes here in 2003, Chris Vranas, the Society's senior vice president of meetings, conventions and trade shows, said.

"Miami, which loves to have ASTA just about every decade, is a huge draw," he said. "Besides domestic members, international agents come in droves."

After congresses here in 1934 (when delegates boarded the Morro Castle for Havana), 1952, 1964 and 1982, as well as 1989, the 2003 congress will convene for the first time in the Miami Beach Convention Center, which dwarfs the previous venue, the Knight Convention Center in downtown Miami.

"Our product has changed dramatically since those days," said Mavie McHale, vice president of sales for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"We'll have over $1 billion in new hotel products to show, which already exceed a dozen new properties in operation or under construction."

The new hotel plant is headed by the Loews Miami Beach, which hosted an ASTA regional meeting last spring.

A Mandarin, three Ritz-Carltons, two Marriotts, a Crowne Plaza and a Sonesta are planned. Although no headquarters hotel has been named yet, delegates will be housed in all the new properties, McHale said, as well as at newly refurbished sites.

Greater Miami, which boasts the title of Cruise Capital of the World, will be showing off dramatic new cruise terminals and the world's largest cruise ships. "There's been a total change in the visitor industry since 1989," said McHale.

"The service is better, the infrastructure is stronger and the entertainment is more exciting. Besides the rise of South Beach as an entertainment and restaurant mecca, our visibility has risen through the film and music industries," she added.

McHale said that Greater Miami will offer ASTA competitive hotel rates as well as attractive terms for the convention center during the event. "We have very heavily solicited ASTA because we want to be very visible to ASTA and very supportive of its programs," she added.

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