MIAMI (CBSMiami) - He has been selling Miami and the beaches for years. Now Bill Talbert, President and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, is stepping aside.
Over the years, Talbert said he's seen a remarkable change in South Florida's tourism industry which now accounts for $19 billion a year.
"Fifty years ago we were a sleepy little town and now we are one of the top global destinations in the world," he said.
Talbert has helmed the GMCVB for the last 19 years and during his time Miami and the beach have moved beyond just "sun, fun, and sand."
"The world loves this place, Miami Beach is more than a beach, it's arts and culture. When we got Art Basel, it really propelled us," he said.
During his tenure, Talbert was involved in bringing Super Bowls, tennis championships, and events small and large here, with his team promoting the Miami and Miami Beach brand worldwide.
Ninety percent of all tourists to South Florida come through Miami International Airport.
While there was a natural, organic, growth in tourism numbers, promotions his staffers developed fueled spectacular progress.
"There is a big team behind me that makes the destination successful. Team effort, team win," said Talbert.
But it's not been all fun in the sun. Hurricanes, Zika, oil spills all presented tourism challenges. Talbert said the events of September 11th were especially frightening.
"Why we were particularly concerned because it was an air disaster. The bulk of our business was coming by air, we were the most vulnerable place in the country," he said.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Talbert shifted focus to educate the community and help the hospitality sector recover from the economic downturn. What was his personal biggest challenge?
"One of the biggest challenges was the reimagining of the Miami Beach Convention Center and the need for an attached headquarters hotel," he said.
The convention business is key to a robust tourism economy and Talbert got it on waging a relentless campaign and voters approved his hope.
"It is ready for new business, new markets, we are excited about that," he said.
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau has announced that David Whitaker has been appointed the next president. He returns to Miami after tourism jobs in Chicago and Toronto. Whitaker is no stranger to South Florida. He worked for the GMCVB from 1990 and 2007.
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