COVID-19 vaccine ‘ticket to opening back up’ and welcoming visitors to Nashville

Special Reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Following a full year of canceled sports events, concerts and conventions, the demand for leisure, domestic travel and new opportunities has never been stronger.

When it comes to full recovery of Nashville’s economy, Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, said the ticket to open back up is the coronavirus vaccine.

Since the pandemic began in March of 2020, NCVC is aware of 1,577 meeting and convention cancellations, representing 1,406,962 room nights and 933,993 attendees.

These meetings were expected to generate $698.75 million in direct spending, $56.54 million in state taxes and $60.25 million in local taxes.

There is good news. 215 of these groups have postponed or rebooked for future dates, with 249,156 room nights, 147,719 attendees and $117.76 million in direct spending.

Spyridon said a couple of “decent sized” conventions are scheduled for June and a couple are scheduled for July.

“For me, that is the beginning of our real test,” Spyridon said. “If we’re at 50% occupancy in June, then I’ll consider it a victory.”

For reference, in June of 2019, Nashville saw about 75-80% occupancy.

“We’re a long way off,” Spyridon said.

However, it is progress. Spyridon emphasized Nashvillians should play safe now so they can play like normal, later.

“I want to start opening up, I want to get things back, but we’ve come this far, let’s get it right so we only reopen once,” he said. “I understand the Governor’s desire to get Tennessee economy back growing. I know Davidson County. We’re the largest generator of revenue, and we’re lagging the most behind.”

Spyridon’s comment follows when Governor Bill Lee took to Facebook inviting spring breakers and summer road-trippers to The Volunteer State.

Spyridon hopes the vaccine will get Nashville to where it needs to be. He added it’s all about timing and the percentage of the population willing to get the shot.

“We think we’ll be above 20% as a city by the end of this month and hopefully by mid April were about 30%, and that’s when we have a chance to do business, do more business and do it responsibly.”

Spyridon continued it’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re on our way to recovery. He believes we will see some profits by the end of the year, but we’re not back roaring at the level of 2019.

Think of it this way: 2021 brings us recovery, 2022 gets us back to making money and 2023 gets us back to 2019.

“Now the trick is keeping everyone motivated to get the vaccine,” Spyridon said. “That’s our ticket to opening back up.”

As vaccinations gain momentum, News 2 digs deeper into what it will take for Tennessee to get into the home stretch of fighting COVID-19.
Join us for special reports on ‘The Vaccine Moving Forward‘ all day Thursday in every newscast.

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