OPINION: How Tourism Can Change Miami's Identity
It’s very clear that Miami has an identity crisis, and not just from the 50 year old men acting 18, but from a cultural crisis where reckless behavior is awarded. Misbehavior, unruliness, and attitude have all become too normal and is even awarded by being posted on Miami’s biggest social media accounts. It’s not necessarily a surprise since Miami has always had a sense of debauchery but has gotten worse since the start of the pandemic.
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert
Ever since 2020, when Miami opened up months before anyone else and offered discounted prices on hotels, we have received the cream of the crop of bad tourists. There has been a huge increase in misbehavior and disrespect, particularly in South Beach, one of our prized historical landmarks. It saddens me to see this happening and saddens me, even more, to see it continuously laughed at and taken for amusement. There is a darker undercurrent to letting our culture turn into a mockery.
A lack of respect and boundaries in your culture is a bullet to the heart. Having a strong sense of pride in your city is not just throwing up the #305TillIDie and celebrating #305Day but by having a deeper connection to your city and how people treat it. We cannot allow this treatment to continue in our city and we need to stop perpetuating it and treating it as normal.
Now, how do I think tourism can help change Miami’s culture? Being a city with a strong sense of culture, pride, and set of boundaries attracts a different kind of tourist. Someone who is actually interested in learning about what makes the city special, someone who is traveling there with a purpose to expand their worldly understanding, and appreciate Miami for what it is. Promoting ourselves as this type of city will bring tourists that, not only, respect the city but also spend money on local activities, local artisans, and local restaurants.
Tourism is also a helpful tool in the fight for environmental protection because it is a catalyst for the first step of protection, awareness. One of my favorite fun facts about Miami is that we are the only city in the United States that is bordered by 2 different national parks. Biscayne Bay National Park and Everglades National Park. We have a unique environment that deserves to be nurtured and taken care of. Unfortunately, damage has been done to our coral reefs, our wildlife, our seagrass, and the environment in general.
Tourists flock to South Florida to see the 3rd largest Coral Reef system in the world but if we have none left then we’ll lose that segment of tourism and hurt many residents along the keys who depend on this tourism. With money at risk, that’s when the government, businesses, and people will finally listen. Sustainable tourism is the key to continuing to fund the lives of many South Florida residents and save the lives of our precious wildlife.
What does this have to do with the type of tourist we are attracting? Well, have you seen the beach after a long day? Trash everywhere. We have incredible charity groups who work day in and day out, volunteering to pick up the trash left behind but that should not be their responsibility. The fact that even when Miami Beach high schoolers also acted in this reckless manner when they had their senior skip day also shows what’s wrong within our own culture. Letting people trash the beach and getting away with it is a problem but if you’re here in Miami to have a reckless and loose time, you simply do not care.
As Miami citizens we need to take it personal when our city gets trashed, when people do not care about throwing their trash out of their boat, when they drive recklessly in no wake zones, and when developers do nothing to prevent pollution runoff into the bay. It is absolutely a personal attack. If we are loose with our boundaries then how do you think tourists are going to act??
Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with partying in Miami. I grew up here and I loved to party when I was in my teens and younger 20s and I know Miami really knows how to throw a party so I don’t want to deprive anyone of that experience or shame them for coming here for only that. But there needs to be a balance. A balance of coming here to have a good time and also taking the time to value what an incredible city we have built. Miami citizens also need to be watchdogs and hold people accountable for any sort of disrespect we encounter.
Miami is nicknamed the Magic City because it is like a city that sprung out of nowhere. 50 years ago, there was not a single one of these luxury high-rises, there was no tourism, this was not considered an internationally important city. And here we are now, the Gateway to the Americas, a city full of a diverse population, a city full of dreamers, artists, and scholars. We have 2 major universities, one of the busiest airports in the United States, and the largest cruise ship port in the world. We have huge potential and all I’m saying is we shouldn’t let it go to waste.
” To be a tourist is to escape accountability “