Miami's tourism industry might continue to beam as brightly as the sky in The Sunshine State, but that sheen is starting to show signs of tarnish.
The city's tourist numbers hit a record 18 million in 2018, but thanks to a series of economic and environmental issues, there's a chance that visitors might think twice about a return trip.
Beaches that used to be pristine back in the day when the cop show Miami Vice showcased the city in its pastel finery now show signs of erosion. Much of that has been due to rampant property development on those once-picturesque shorelines. Creating more environmental havoc are several waterway dredging projects further inland and the buffering of protective barriers, now that climate change has demonstrated that the oceans are starting rise.
It's an ecological epidemic that Florida Department of Environmental Protection continues to fight, spending up to $40 million a year to restore more than 400 miles of deteriorating beaches, twice that reported in 1989. The state and the federal government have spent an additional $13 billion trying to preserve Everglades National Park, which has suffered a loss of roughly half of its vegetation over the years to water diversion initiatives.
Miami's reputation as Party Central, especially during Spring Break, has also taken a beating with many of these after-hours bashes devolving into drunken brawls. In March, police arrested more than 600 rowdy revelers with the city since imposing a 2 a.m. curfew on festivities.
Financially, the city's been facing a losing battle, spending more than $50 million on refurbishing its major entertainment district, although in 2018 returns on that investment were less than half. Much of that could be blamed on higher rents, which caused more than 100 establishments such as upscale clubs, restaurants and novelty shops to vacate prime areas like South Beach to lower-profile communities elsewhere in the city. In their place, tattoo parlors, pawn shops and chain stores easily found elsewhere internationally hold court.
Those still lured by Miami's reputation as a major seaside destination manage to keep the tourist dollars coming in, even though the heydays of Miami Vice, a fashion scene that once rivaled Paris and London, and a prime recreational destination for the likes of the Rolling Stones are long gone. But if the situation worsens, especially with the city's proximity to the slowly-rising Atlantic Ocean, a fading tourism industry will be the least of its worries.