NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s the unofficial start to summer, and city officials are hoping the holiday weekend brings in big business for Music City.

The city lost $4.5 billion in the tourism industry in 2020, according to the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. It’s a hit that will likely take years to recover from, but with a number of new restaurants and conventions returning, they are optimistic Nashville will get to the other side quicker than most destinations.

Deana Ivey Executive VP & CMO with NCVC told News 2 the city is already starting to feel a comeback.

The day after mask and capacity restrictions were lifted, Ivey said Nashville hotels were at an 84% occupancy rate. That’s nearly double the days leading up to it.

While Nashville lost 17 restaurants contributed to COVID-19, Ivey said 95 new restaurants, bars, and cafes have opened, or will by the end of 2021.

“You can tell people had a pent up demand, that they were ready to come back, because it’s really starting to pick up mostly weekends. We are still needing help that Sunday through Wednesday, because we are missing conventions, but as far as leisure travel, it’s really picking up on the weekends. You know we have great new restaurants. We have the new African American Museum, which is incredible.” Ivey continued, “We are trying to inspire people to come back and see all the new things.”

Therefore, they’ve kicked off a new campaign called “While you’ve been away, we’ve been creating” in hopes of continuing to draw people back to see all the new places Music City has to offer.

Ivey said the end of the year is already looking promising, with 28 new hotels and the return of conventions.

“We have some good conventions coming in. We have 12,000 Southern Baptist coming in June, we have tractor supply it’s about 10,000 – may end up being 12,000. We have some really large conventions that are really large, and we haven’t had any. We’ve had small meetings, if anything, so the rest of the year looks pretty good, and we are just trying to get through and end with a good 6 months.”

Conventions make up a significant 40% of the tourism business in Nashville, according to the NCVC.

Right now, Ivey said there are 60 conventions on the books for this year, compared to 109 at this time in 2019.

While most recovery predictions are looking at 2024, according to Ivey,  Nashville is expected to recover quicker than most destinations because we have both convention and leisure business.

The next big holiday the city is banking on is July 4th when Nashville will have the biggest fireworks show yet, with Brad Paisley headlining.