The History of South Beach - Tourism Essay Example

Published: 2019-08-16
The History of South Beach - Tourism Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Tourism Hospitality
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1994 words
17 min read

South Beach is a located in the city of Miami Beach, Florida, in the United States of America. The South Beach area consists all of the Barrier Islands of Miami Beach but South of Indian Creek.

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South Beach began as a farmland but over the years went through natural and man-made changes. The Great Miami hurricane devastated the area the most causing damages in the tens of millions of dollars. The national depression had also affected businesses. At the beginning of the 1980s, crime had taken hold on the beach. Reports of burglary and other petty crimes had been on a steady rise. Fidel Castro, then president of Cuba, began shipping transporting prisoners to the area during the Mariel Boatlift which aggravated the situation as crime worsened. South Beach, at the time, was also infamous for drugs dealings. Much of the drugs circulating in the Miami area were sourced from South Beach.

Amidst the drugs and crime lived retirees. Retirees were settled in the South Beach area as an attempt to compensate for the decline of tourism that occurred in the years preceding the 1980s. Hotel owners and landlords began catering for retirees of the middle-to-lower classes, as the wealthier renters fled the area to other parts of Miami. The image of South Beach had begun to dwindle and was known as an area for poor retirees. Some even joked that South Beach was where people go to die. The image was a different as compared to what it is known as now.


The mid-1980s breathed new life into the area. This was in large part due to the influx of homosexuals. Gay night clubs were opened and ruled the night life. People flooded the area for the nightlife and eventually settled there. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, South Beach had turned into a fun, creative international destination. Aided by the rise in air transportation, the area attracted tourists from all over the United States.

MID 1990s

By mid-1990s South Beach had been known as the place where homosexuals settled. According to a 1996 report published in The New York Times claimed that gay men who were diagnosed with HIV relocated to South Beach to spend their last days, favored for its warm weather, affordable housing, and the easygoing lifestyle of the residents. The real market was the biggest gainer from the arrival of the homosexuals.

LATE 1990s

Gianni Versace, the Italian fashion designer and founder of Versace, moved to South Beach in 1992 after spending some time there for work on a movie set. He settled in this area by building a castle that became his home. His arrival attracted A-list celebrities, supermodels, and artist to South Beach. By the late 1990s, South Beach was him came A-list celebrities. The South Beach A-list status was cemented during this time. This was even more pronounced when the South Beach influence started becoming visible in the designs of the $800 million Versace designs. This fun, easygoing lifestyle of South Beach went on until 1997.

In 1997, a spree killer, Andrew Cunanan terrorized different states in the United States. He was alleged to be responsible for the murders of four men spanning four states. The killer traveled to South Beach in search of Gianni Versace. After being stalked by Andrew Cunanan for a few days, he was fatally shot at the stairs of his home on his way to his morning jog. The killing sent shockwaves through the area. Crime was not new in South Beach, but none was as publicized as the murder of Gianni Versace. The death of Gianni Versace marked the end of an era where South Beach was most glamorous and vibrant.


South Beach in the 21st century is largely defined by its annual events. The events showcase arts, music, and food, the three main ones being the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Winter Music Conference/Miami Music Week, and Art Basel Miami Beach (Leddick, David, Winslow, and Mason, 58). The Urban Beach Week is also an event that attracts a large number of beachgoers and packs hotel rooms. Started in 2001, the event is predominantly for and by African Americans. It started small but has over the years attracted many hip-hop acts yearly which grew the crowds. As successful as the event is, it has caused racial wars in South Beach with race-based parties organized. In 2011, an African American man was shot dead during the week of the event. Some claimed this to be a hate crime by the police. The following year, police barricaded the South Beach area, and passes were not offered to African Americans. This negatively affected the event attendance in recent years.

In 2014, hotel bookings were down by 25% compared to 2011. Other local businesses have also been affected by the decline of tourism with some closing down. There have been many reasons cited for the decline of South Beach. However, many reports have indicated that racism and corruption are the main causes for the state of the beach today.


By definition, tourism involves the movement of people out of their communities for business, educational purposes or leisure. Beach tourism is the movement of people to coastal beaches, usually for leisure. Beaches are favored for the weather that accompanies regions adjacent to large water bodies.


Between the 1980s and today, beach tourism has grown. This is mainly because of change in lifestyle. The preference to travel rather when free rather than stay at home is more than was exhibited in previous generations. Travel costs are also significantly cheaper as compared to previous years. Budget airlines in particular made it possible for much of the population to places that were virtually unreachable before. The popularity of South Beach as a tourist destination began in the 1920s after infrastructure in the area became suitable for automobile traffic. As the years passed more tourist attractions sites, especially during the architectural revolution, were constructed and attracted even more people. In the late 1970s, the architecture that had survived the takeover by developers in South Beach was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the last 30 years, gentrification of South Beach has been on the rise (Leddick, David, Winslow, Mason, 23). Hotels are affordable to most tourists as many of them were built to accommodate the lower middle class group of people. As the wealthy travel to South Beach to buy condominiums that go into the millions, the lower class has access to thousands of hotel and motel rooms available. Today, the South Beach part of Miami Beach is a world renowned beach destination popular with tourists from the Western Hemisphere. Some of the tourists have purchased second or permanent homes in the location.


South Beach is one of the most frequented beaches in the world. According to an article published in February of 2015 in the Miami Times News, 97.3 million people visited Florida last year, with about 70% of them going to South Beach. This number is expected to rise. The influx of tourists has an impact on the surrounding areas. Tourism is the number one industry in Miami. Tourism accounts for the most tax revenue which is turn used for the city and states major projects.

South Beach tourism has led to the preservation of culture and cities in Miami. As tourists are in South Beach, they visit other areas in Miami that have culture. A prime example is Little Havana. Increased tourism has made it possible for the area to be declared a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Tourism is South Beach has also led to increased employment opportunities (Bhatia, 65). People travel to South Beach from other areas in Miami search of employment. Employment improves living standards of the people and leads to a decrease in criminal activities. Other businesses in the area also thrive as a result of employment opportunities as people have increased purchasing power. The local economy in South Beach has been boosted by the booming tourism sector in South Beach. Local businesses, for example coffee shops, restaurants and art shops experience increased business by the influx of tourists. This in turn boost small businesses also leading to an improved living standard and subsequent decrease in crime.

As much as there are positive impacts of tourism in South Beach for Miami, there have been some negative impacts. Drugs have been a problem in the area for decades. The presence of a large number of tourists makes the business of drug peddling that much simpler as there is a ready market. New forms of synthetic drugs are distributed in South Beach and many of them coming in from areas around Miami. In 2015, a ring of drug deal was cracked open. Hundreds of Kilos of euphoric synthetic drugs were ceased. The drugs, which can lead to death, had a large market in wealthy partygoers in South Beach. Later in 2015, $41 Million worth of drugs was ceased in Miami Beach. Law enforcement is yet to combat this issue.

With a large number of people traveling to South Beach, traffic is bound to increase. Traffic in Miami; according to a report in Time magazine published in 2014, Miami had the 7th worst traffic in the United States. Hours lost in traffic by residents of Miami account for hundreds of millions of dollars in losses due to time wastage. The same report stated that a trip that would take 30 minutes takes more than double the time. Traffic is caused by the large number of tourists in the area.


South Beach boasts hundreds of hotels catering to all classes and people of different types. These types include boutique hotels, business hotels, extended stay hotels, beach resorts, casino hotels, home-stays, and conference and convention stays. Hotels that have the highest number of tourists in South Beach are the boutique hotels, condo hotels, and beach resorts.


Small hotels that have a small number of rooms, typically not exceeding 100 rooms but not less than 10, are boutique hotels. Boutique hotels have a personal feel as compared to bigger hotels and an enveloping atmosphere. A boutique hotel can stand alone or is part of a larger group of hotels but caters to guests who prefer the atmosphere of it. The types of hotels are located in urban settings. They can be adjacent to a busy street therefore guests can be absorbed into the day-to-day culture of the area. This is one of the reasons why a large percentage of tourists to South Beach choose boutique hotels. Regarding service, the smaller the hotel, the better the service is likely to be. Boutique hotels in South Beach have a high standard of customer service. This is because it is easier to satisfy the needs of a few people as compared to many people. The hotel staff is also able to attend to hotel guest needs faster because of the size if the hotel and number of guests as compared to larger hotels. This is another reason tourists visiting South Beach pick boutique hotels.

Boutique hotels attract tourists who wish to be immersed in the day-to-day activities of the city which is made possible by its location. As they are located within the cities, they are sometimes located next to commercial buildings. These types of hotels are also favored by those that travel outside of South Beach for tourism. Location in the city translates to adjacency to transportation available in the city, for example, the public bus system. Middle to lower class people prefer boutique hotels because they are usually cheaper that condo hotels and resorts, with closeness to the beach being a determining factor. The Boutique hotels in South Beach include Bars B&B South Beach Boutique Hotel and SLS South Beach. These two hotels are ranked among the top ten best in Miami Beach by ratings from tourists.


Condo hotels are common i...

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