Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Opryland crippled; tourism hurt

The weekend's historic floods struck Nashville's tourism industry at its heart, taking out a signature hotel and other attractions just as the city enters its peak summer visitor season.
• The flooded Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center won't reopen for several months, leaving Nashville without 12 percent of its hotel rooms and wiping out as much as a fourth of the convention business that comes to town.

• Honky-tonks and shops along Lower Broadway and on Second Avenue, including the Wildhorse Saloon and Hard Rock Cafe, closed Monday and didn't know when they would reopen because of flooding in their basements.

• Water damage also shut down major tourist attractions including the Grand Ole Opry and Opry Mills shopping center, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

RelatedOpryland guests become evacueesSunday's flooding damage and rescuesSaturday's flood damageNashville flood scenes on MondayNashville landmarks floodedComplete coverage of Nashville flooding

Most should bounce back in time for the CMA Music Festival on June 10-13, if not well before then, said Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

But Gaylord Opryland, with its nearly 2,900 hotel rooms and 600,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space, will be out of commission indefinitely, and the city will be without a fifth of its hotel taxes, the amount typically collected by Gaylord.

As the floodwaters continued to rise Monday inside the garden-filled atriums of the famous hotel, some of the conventions booked there this summer were being redirected to Gaylord resorts in other cities, said David Kloeppel, president and chief operating officer.

"We know there is significant impact," Spyridon said. Already, one large convention that was to bring 5,000 guests to the hotel for a government-related meeting had to be canceled.

With hundreds of conventions and meetings in jeopardy, Spyridon is working with Gaylord officials to keep some of the smaller groups here by booking them at other Nashville hotels and downtown's Nashville Convention Center, although those venues are nearly full this summer. Nashville won't be able to accommodate the largest groups because no other venues have big enough meeting spaces, he said.

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