Nashville hotels fight to regain footing in stormy travel industry

Honky-tonks are elbow-to-elbow on weekend nights again and traffic is back to being a headache.

But hotels haven’t enjoyed the same rushed return to normal business as other sectors of Nashville’s economy.

Tourism continues to thrive, with vacation travel as busy as ever. Convention and business meeting bookings, meanwhile, are slowly inching their way back.

“Downtown Nashville relies very heavily on conventions and conferences, which have been slower to return than leisure travelers,” said Chelsea McCready, senior director of hospitality analytics at CoStar Group. “Leisure travel to Nashville has been fully recovered since last spring.”

McCready noted Music City Center wins include the Restaurant Facility Management Association’s Annual Conference and the Annual Clinical Genetics Meeting later this month.

“But both the volume of bookings and attendance at most meetings remain lower than pre-pandemic levels for now,” she said. “The omicron variant caused another setback in the recovery of hotel performance in Nashville, but the recovery has resumed again as the latest wave of cases recedes.”

Four Seasons Nashville rises above the downtown skyline on Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn.  The 40-story building will be split between condos and hotel rooms.

At the end of last year, the revenue-per-available-room rate was still down 26% for 2019 in Nashville, according to hospitality industry data firm STR. Nationwide, that compares to a range including a full return to 2019 levels in Miami, to a 64% decline in the average nightly cost of a San Francisco hotel room rental.

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