Two weeks after the record-breaking rains in Nashville, just two of the seven hotels that were forced to close because of flooding remain shuttered. One of them, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Nashville-Opryland expects to open by June 1, but the largest property in the city, the 2,881-room Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center is expected to be closed for months.
"The massive flooding in Nashville will dramatically affect the city's hotel industry for an extended period of time," said Mark Lomanno, president of Smith Travel Research, Hendersonville, Tenn., in a press release. "Having a property the size of the Gaylord Opryland out of commission for a number of months will artificially skew Nashville's hotel performance numbers,” he said. The hotel accounts for roughly 10 percent of the hotel rooms in the Nashville market and about 25 percent of the city’s total hotel tax revenue.
“It's a tough hurdle for everyone in Nashville to clear, but we're confident that the hoteliers in STR's hometown will emerge from this stronger than ever when the rebuilding is done," added Lomanno.
The Gaylord Opryland, which sits alongside the Cumberland River, is refunding deposits and payments for all reservations scheduled over the next 90 days, stated Gaylord officials. The hotel has stopped taking reservations for the next six months, according to an article in the The Wall Street Journal. Officials are assessing the damage, but they expect to reopen before the end of the year, the WSJ reports.
Gaylord Opryland had 181,600 group room nights on the books for May, June, and July. “Whenever possible, we are transitioning them to other Nashville hotels,” said Pete Weien, senior vice president and general manager of the Gaylord Opryland. “Other customers have chosen to relocate their events to another facility within the Gaylord family,” added Weien. “Our top priority is to find the best alternative solution that meets the needs of our customers and their convention plans.”
To date, Gaylord has transferred more than 8,800 room nights to hotels in downtown Nashville; 811 room nights to hotels in Franklin, Tenn.; and the company is working with dozens of groups to move another 49,000 room nights to other hotels in the Nashville area. Approximately 58,000 room nights have been relocated to other Gaylord properties.
“We’re doing our best to mitigate the disruption in Nashville’s tourism and entertainment industries by keeping convention travelers coming to Music City,” said Weien. Two groups have relocated their meetings to the Nashville Convention Center.
Some events, like the 2,000-attendee Romance Writers of America annual conference, have moved outside the Nashville and Gaylord fold. The conference, which was scheduled for July 27-31 at the Gaylord, worked with meeting management company Experient to rebook at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando.
"The team at Gaylord Opryland should be commended for their pro-active approach to helping groups make the move as seamless as possible for the attendees and exhibitors,” said Gary Schirmacher, CMP, senior vice president, strategic account services at Experient, in a press release. “The focused work that both the Gaylord Opryland and the Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin team did for RWA allowed us to get the deal done very quickly, which greatly helped attendees who were anxiously waiting for the announcement of where the conference would go,” he added.
Allison Kelley, CAE, executive director at RWA, credited Experient with finding a suitable location on short notice. “Once groups received notice of cancellation from the Opryland Hotel, there was a frenzy to book rooms elsewhere. Not counting the hotels in Las Vegas, there are fewer than 30 hotels [in the U.S.] that have adequate meeting space and the double rooms we need.”