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Miami hoteliers adapt businesses to recession

One of the first things Louis Taic did when he bought an Ocean Drive hotel was move it to Collins Avenue.

The switch wasn't as hard as it sounds, since the Hotel de Soleil fronts both South Beach streets. While the previous owners picked the Ocean Drive address for its prestige, the hotel's main entrance faces Collins. Taic thought it wasteful to pay an extra bellhop to monitor the back entrance, too.

"We are in deep financial doo-doo," Taic said of a global economy forcing hotels across South Florida to roll back their ambitions. "If we're not going to react to the reality out there, we're going to go under."

As one of South Florida's newest hoteliers, Taic is sorting through the consequences of a tourism boom in retreat.

The 79-room hotel he bought in September – nearly to the day of the first stock market crash – once promised to redefine luxury on Ocean Drive.

But with room revenues down 18 percent in Miami-Dade County this year, Taic now has more modest ambitions. In January he quietly turned over management of the hotel to Crowne Plaza, a brand one notch below luxury on the lodging scale.

"I would have never contemplated Crowne Plaza if the economy were not what it is," Taic said. "Now I need to be a very strong four-star price with a five-star product."

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