Nashville loses nearly $2B in visitor spending due to COVID-19


"It's three 9/11's on top of each other stacked with two 2008's behind it, it's unbelievable."

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The saying goes “slow and steady wins the race.” But the battle against the coronavirus feels more like a marathon.

Butch Spyridon, President of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp (NCVC) says right now, patience is key.

“This nickel-and-dime approach is not working,” said Spyridon, “Do we do good for five nights then tank again or do we take the pain, and have a stronger more permanent rebound?”

Spyridon said that he’s in it for the long-term and that means playing it safe.

“I’m conflicted,” Spyridon said. “I have to say, honestly, it’s not a good thing for people to come right now and that’s why we haven’t done any marketing. It sounds strange coming from me, I get that, but I’m concerned about the long-term and the bigger recovery.” ​

Meantime, Lukus Kindlesparker, Vice President and General Manager at the JW Marriott Nashville is just longing for a break.

“I’ve been in the business for 22 years and I’ve never seen anything like it at all.,” Kindlesparker said. “It’s three 9/11’s on top of each other stacked with two 2008’s behind it, it’s unbelievable.”

Kindlesparker told News 2 the hotel saw a slight uptick when the bars and restaurants were allowed to open with limited capacity, the same happened when live music was re-introduced.

“We were starting to ride this wave of optimism, and you know, when the mayor had to make the unfortunate decision to close bars at 10 p.m. that immediately was an impact for us.” ​​

The hospitality industry here in Nashville drives our economy. Spyridon said since COVID-19 hit, we lost nearly 2 billion dollars in visitor spending.

What’s worse, nearly every city-wide convention scheduled for the end of the year has pulled out.

As of July 17, The NCVC is aware of 1,169 meeting/convention cancellations representing 908,722 room nights and 580,273 attendees. These meetings were expected to generate $450.41 million in direct spending, $36.46 million in state taxes, and $38.89 million in local taxes.

In addition, 16 citywide conventions canceled their 2020 program in Nashville, and ten of them have already rebooked for future dates or are in the process of rebooking now.

Also, 1,197 travel trade groups with 37,905 attendees have canceled trips through the end of 2020, which were expected to generate at least $17.68 million in direct spending.

“It’s been devastating,” said Kindlesparker, “In some phases, it’s upwards of an 80% difference year over year. You’re trying to hang on for dear life in 2020 and hoping for some good news in 2021.”

Hoping now to get back to the Music City of 2019.

“Our fall is further, but I do believe our rebound is more optimistic,” said Spyridon.

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