Lisa Duke: Co-Chair Port Everglades Association 8th Annual Economic Engine Performance Report

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Visitors, trade to Broward County continues to rise – South Florida Business Journal
by Emon Reiser

Broward County’s ports and tourism numbers continue to boom, regional leaders said Friday.

The Port Everglades Association held its eighth annual Economic Engine Performance Report with hundreds of South Florida business leaders in attendance at the Broward County Convention Center.

The port announced a 20-year plan for improvements.

Executives from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Port Everglades and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau offered updates, projects and a few milestones the economic engines would soon reach:

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

“We will pass 29 million passengers this year,” said Kent George, outgoing director of Aviation at the Broward County Aviation Department. “We go to over 60 international destinations and we’re still growing.”

The airport reported about 26 million passengers in 2015 and is on track to grow that number, George said. He outlined multiple upgrades to FLL that will accommodate even more travelers passing through its terminals. Renovations include Delta Airlines’ Concourse A opening in mid-2017, which will add 5 new gates, and the Terminal 4 expansion, which will add eight new gates to the airport by 2018.

The airport will continue to expand its flights, including a new route to Paris starting in August.

Port Everglades

The port officially confirmed Friday that it surpassed the world record for single-day passengers for the second time in a row. In mid-March, the port recorded more than 54,700 cruise passengers, up from 53,485 passengers in December when the port broke the previous record. In 2015, Port Everglades had 3.77 million cruise passengers.

New ships, including Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas – the largest ship in the world – will begin setting sail from Port Everglades this year.

The latest numbers show the port continues to grow in import-export dollars, with $27.15 billion in trade in 2014. It marks the fourth consecutive year of trade growth for Port Everglades. It was the No. 14 seaport in the nation and its No. 1 trade partner remains Venezuela, despite the country’s economic decline.

“Our numbers are growing,” said Steven Cernak, port director of Port Everglades.

The port is expected to handle even more trade as the Panama Canal completes its expansion project. The port is already handling Post-Panamax ships, but they are not fully loaded. The port is in the midst of its own $374 million dredging project.

Tourism

Nicki Grossman, longtime president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, bid farewell to the event’s attendees in one of the last public speeches of her career. She has 61 more days left in her position after 21 years of leading the bureau, she told attendees. Grossman then offered an outline of Broward County’s record achievements in hospitality.

The county welcomed a record 15.4 million visitors in 2014, according to the most recent numbers. Last year welcomed new, lucrative convention business such as as the National Urban League convention and its 9,000 visitors and Seatrade Cruise Global, which brought about 11,000 executives from global cruise companies and ports to Broward County.

“We accounted for 15 percent of visitors to Florida and we don’t even have a mouse,” Grossman said, alluding to Orlando’s top lure: Disney World’s Mickey Mouse.

More convention business is expected to flow into Broward County as officials hammer out plans for its convention center hotel. More new trade events will arrive in the next few years, including conventions from the National Genealogical Society, IBTM Americas and the National Speech and Debate Conference.

After Grossman said some of her final farewells, Broward College officially presented a legacy scholarship to the tourism czar to honor her career. The Nicki Englander Grossman Endowed Hospitality and Tourism Management Scholarship will be awarded annually to students who study hospitality-related fields at Broward College’s campuses, with the first one going out this fall, said Nancy Botero, executive director of the Broward College Foundation.

“What this scholarship will do is carry on a legacy,” Botero told the Business Journal. She credits Margaret Kempel, executive director of the Port Everglades Association, with initiating the scholarship. “She wanted a suitable way to honor Nicki and thankfully she thought of Broward College.”

Broward College students preparing for careers as marketing specialists, cruise industry managers and event planners can apply for the scholarship through the college’s financial aid office.

“We have long admired Nicki and her contributions to the tourism and hospitality industry,” said Broward College President David Armstrong. “There’s no better way to continue her legacy than through a scholarship.”

Grossman took the helm in 1995 when travelers generated $3.2 billion for the local economy. This year’s visitors had an economic impact of $14.2 billion.

“She has elevated everything for our county and made tourism the No. 1 industry here,” said Heiko Dobrikow, general manager of the Riverside Hotel. “I can also say bravo and we were so blessed having her here for over two decades.”

Emon Reiser covers retail, restaurants, tourism and hospitality. Get the latest retail news with our free daily newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

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