MIAMI-Atlanta-based hotel investment advisory services firmHunter Realty has set up shop in Miami. Stephen Taylor, the firm’snewly-minted vice president, will lead the Miami office intoopportunities in Florida and the Caribbean.

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“We believe Florida and especially Miami, Orlando and Tampa willbe hotbeds of activity over the next 24 to 36 months as the economyrecovers and the debt issues facing hundreds of hotel ownersfinally get resolved,” says Teague Hunter, president of HunterRealty. Teague says Taylor’s 30-plus years of hotel real estateexperience as a broker, operator, developer and consultant makeshim a good fit to head the Miami expansion.

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Taylor comes to Hunter from HTL Hospitality Advisors, where hewas managing director of the firm’s Miami brokerage and consultingbusiness. Before entering the hotel brokerage business, Taylor wasfounding partner, president, and CEO of Brookshire Hotels, anationwide full-service hotel management and development companywith a portfolio of about 30 hotels.

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In his new role at Hunter, Taylor smells opportunity. He pointsto Smith Travel Research’s Aug. 14 report that shows Miami-Dade’soccupancy rose to 74%, up from 69% a year ago. Broward’s occupancyrate rose from 60% to 63% in the same period. Meanwhile, Orlando’shotel occupancy climbed nearly 7% in July.

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“The banks are starting to get a little bit more aggressivenow,” Taylor tells GlobeSt.com. “They are more willing to loosentheir purse strings. I expect to see more deals in Florida, and Ithink the state will recover more quickly than others. There’s abig pent up demand for vacations, so Florida as a tourismdestination still has an advantage.”

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Miami-based Gencom, one of the largest owner/developers ofluxury-branded hotel properties in the U.S., is also betting onFlorida and the Caribbean. The company just completed a $1 billionrecapitalization of its portfolio, which includes the 450-room TheRitz-Carlton, Key Biscayne Resort in Florida. Gencom is negotiatingto acquire several distressed assets in the Caribbean.

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“The recapitalization and restructuring of this group of luxuryassets has allowed us to enhance our investment platform and tomove forward with strategically focusing on growing the company’scollection of four- and five-star properties,” says Karim Alibhai,founder and principal of Gencom.

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Both companies seem to be betting on tourism, at least for theshort term. Although Florida’s leisure business may be trending up,group meeting business is still suffering at major hotel propertiesin Miami, Tampa and Orlando, according to a new report fromColliers PKF Consulting in Atlanta. The demand is increasing, butthe price points are declining.

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“On the corporate side, business will continue to increase at asteady level,” Scott Smith, senior vice president of Colliers PKFConsulting in Atlanta, tells GlobeSt.com. “We’ve reached the bottomin Florida, but we think it will take several years to recover tothe pre-recession levels of 2007. It could be 2013 or 2014 beforethe Florida hotel market returns to complete health. It’s going tobe a real slow go.”

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