Nashville Hospitality Restarts
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In the aftermath of the toughest year in the hotel industry’s history, Nashville’s posh Fairlane Hotel made the decision to let it go.
A wall of pink flowers rose over a rooftop “bouquet bar” with teasing pink neon lights: “Nashville, Yes, You, Maybe.” The pop-up event delighted selfie photo enthusiasts with backdrops draped in flowers, fountains and hanging arrangements.
“We’ve been fighting for every last dollar for the past 14 months,” said Ethan Orley, managing partner of owner Oliver Hospitality. “The Fairlane style is timeless, authentic. But the settlement was thrown out. We decided to have fun, be local and focus on the passing tourist.
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Business is booming again, but the wounds from industry shutdowns are still fresh.
Average daily rates in May for hotel rooms in the Nashville market were below $130 per night – the lowest since early 2013 and at least $100 lower than in 2019, according to the data company. hospitality industry STR.
Revenue collected by hotels per night was around $80 in May, compared to $205 in May 2019.
“Tourism and hospitality were the first hit, and they were the hardest hit,” said Butch Spyridon, CEO of Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. “Music comes next. Our brand is music, so we as the hospitality industry have taken it twice on the chin.”
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Tourism revenue estimated at $4.5 billion evaporated in 2020.
Today, new marketing and hiring strategies are the norm in an industry slowly recovering from the prolonged and dramatic recession.
Orley said the bouquet bar is part of a series of pop-up event spaces aimed at attracting more local and regional tourists with “a moment to take you out of reality”. The weekday business crowd remains elusive.
“Nashville hasn’t returned to its 2019 numbers, but it’s returned to a level that will support many hotels,” he said. “The negative thing is that we have a lot of carnage from the past.”
Empty hotels still had to pay mortgages, employees, insurance and rising taxes.
Continued:The Dive Motel aims for sunnier days after the rain of the coronavirus pandemic during its grand opening
Consumer demand has climbed higher than most analysts had expected this summer, but it remains erratic. Businesses are scrambling to be as hospitable to visitors as possible with reduced teams, supply shortages and short-term uncertainties as large gatherings for meetings and entertainment resume.
Hotel occupancy rates in the greater Nashville area have jumped steadily since May. They fell from 60.8% to 66.2% in the last three weeks, on average, of May, according to hotel industry analyst STR. Occupancy restrictions were lifted on May 14.
Hotels have relied on budget cuts and negotiations with investors and banks to stay alive. Cost reduction strategies range from reducing amenities and restaurants to reduced cleaning services between stays and on demand.
There were about 113,000 unemployed Tennesseans in the first week of June and more than 250,000 jobs advertised on the state’s Labor and Workforce Development website.
Governor Bill Lee cut enhanced unemployment benefits starting July 3 to encourage more people to get back to work faster. Most employers expect this to help, but not solve, the shortage.
Not only is the worker shortage frustrating rehiring efforts, but downtown workers who once filled hotel cafes and happy hour bars have also not returned as work-from-home allowances continue.
Continued:Stifling worker shortage threatens recovery: ‘We are nowhere near the pace we need to keep up’
The business traveler crowd, in general, is hard to come by these days.
“We still have a big hole we’re digging into,” said Chartwell Hospitality Vice President Kevin Green. “Everyone is dealing with high demand on the weekends. It takes a day or two to catch up for next weekend.”
Chartwell has a dozen downtown hotels that almost sell out on weekends and fill only about half of weekdays, Green said.
The Loews Vanderbilt Hotel is advertising a 20% discount off the total bill for three-day stays to boost weekday activities.
During the pandemic lull, the Midtown stalwart has upgraded its offerings with three luxury designer suites aimed at high-end musicians and business travelers.
“Suites can come with exclusive concierge service, a personal chef and mixologist and private workouts,” said general manager Hugh Anderson. “We think now is the perfect time to come out of the pandemic with sequels aimed at an audience looking for something very curated. We can deliver a unique experience.”
Like so many others, the hotel caters more to regional tourists from feeder cities like Atlanta, Asheville, and Chicago.
Hiring incentives, salary increases and new training opportunities are also the norm here and elsewhere.
More with less
The fortunes of Opryland owner Ryman Hospitality recently improved for a long time after 14 months of steady losses.
In May, average daily cancellations fell to less than 1,500 a day for the first time at its five sprawling entertainment complexes nationwide since early last year. But 64% of group room bookings were changed later this year.
Cash burn recently fell below $10 million per month across the company.
Ryman Hospitality Properties CEO Colin Reed said he expects growth at his hotels and venues, including Ryman Auditorium and Ole Red, throughout the year.
“We’ve seen a very robust shift in people’s desire to travel, not just for leisure, but recently for group business,” Reed said. “Opryland had a few days last week that were basically full. The question is, are the numbers just exacerbated by the fact that people have been locked in their homes? I don’t think so. I think people are in trip and want to book a group trip.”
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For now, Opryland’s food and drink options are reduced due to a debilitating staff shortage.
Gaylord Opryland Resort has over 2,000 rooms operated by Marriott.
The company holds regular job fairs and focuses on increasing incentives and compensation for employees who have to do more with less.
“We believe we will be more efficient in hotel management,” said Patrick Chaffin, chief operating officer of Ryman Hospitality. “We have really strong employees and managers who can do more with less.”
Business leaders are exploring the local market meanwhile business and group meetings segment with new marketing strategies.
Like many, they reward top performers with higher pay as they slowly staff up.
“We are blocking and tackling every day to get there and celebrating our short successes,” Green said. “Last year we had no business. Now we have all this business and no employees. I would rather have that.”
Sandy Mazza can be reached by email at [email protected], by calling 615-726-5962 or on Twitter @SandyMazza.