There is a major effort afoot to keep the tourism industry of Music City afloat in the wake of possibly the most devastating flood in Nashville history. And the city’s signature event could wind up being an indicator to the rest of the world that the city is, indeed, recovering.
Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, and his staff spent the last week trying keep the city’s dominant economic engine running.
With the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and, to a lesser extent, Music Valley Drive, down for the foreseeable future due to flooding, the city is going to take a hit in the pocketbook.
According to the CVB, the 3,000-room Opryland Hotel accounts for approximately 12 percent of Davidson County’s hotel room inventory. Add the smaller hotels surrounding the landmark and that number jumps to 5,000 rooms.
Gaylord Opryland alone accounts for 20 percent of the county’s hotel/motel tax revenue on average per year. That is about $4.85 million annually, and it does not include revenue generated by sales tax.
Right now, Spyridon and his staff are working to keep conventions and guests flowing into the city while the water recedes. It is a tactic he calls “space, dates and rates.”
“First we have to see what spaces we have,” Spyridon said, “places like the Municipal Auditorium, the Bridgestone Arena and so on, and look at how to either use those spaces for other areas affected by the flood or get them back online as fast as possible.
“Then we look at what dates upcoming conventions had booked, keep them from going somewhere else by making sure that they are willing to relocate somewhere else in the city, and then make sure that the rates are competitive.”
Spyridon added that the CVB is also trying to help local businesses, the backbone of a convention economy.
This weekend, Gaylord Opryland was supposed to host the National Humane Society’s 2010 Animal Care Expo. The four-day event is now scheduled to take place in the downtown area and will bring approximately 1,500 people and fill 750 hotel rooms.
One still in the works is the National Moose Lodge Convention. Officials are trying to keep it in town for the week of July 1-7. It was also scheduled for Gaylord Opryland, but the CVB and the director of the Moose Fraternity are working to keep the event in Nashville. Their presence means 6,000 to 7,000 tourists bringing hotel/motel and sales tax revenue into the city’s coffers.
Probably the biggest event on the horizon is the annual CMA Music Festival, which occurs June 10-13. It is arguably one of the city’s biggest revenue producers, and now it looms larger than in previous years. It could mark the city’s re-emergence from flood-ravaged days.
“CMA Music Festival is Nashville’s signature music event… ,” CMA Fest chairman Steve Moore wrote in a message on the fest’s website. “We have every intention of holding the event as planned June 10-13 in downtown Nashville. We cannot think of a better way to help our local economy at this time of great need than to continue the 39-year tradition of CMA Music Festival.”
The Nashville-based country music cable channel GAC has volunteered to run public service announcements on all of its networks (GAC, HGTV and the Travel Channel) touting that Nashville is open for business.
Mike Kelly, a CVB board member, told The City Paper that he is proud of the work that the CVB staff is doing to quickly plug the tourism dam.
“Gaylord Opryland is a part of Nashville, an extremely important part,” he said. “We want to help them in every way we can and get them back on their feet as fast as possible. We all are in this together.”