Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Opryland Crippled: tourism hurt

(From The Tennessean)
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 flooled 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 Hark Rock Cafe, closed Monday and didn't know when they could 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.

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 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 collcected by Gaylord.

As the floodwaters continued to rise Monday inside the garden-filled atriums of the famous hotel, some of the conventions booked there thissummer 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, althought 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.

The resort on the banks of the Cumberland River evacuated 2,000 guests and employees Sunday night as the rain-filled river rose, flooding the Delta and Cascades atriums. The Cascades seafood restuarant and lobby were underwater by Monday, spokeswoman Kim Keelor said. Most of the hotel rooms were free of damage as of Monday.

The impact of the flood was such an unprecedented disaster that officials at Gaylord Entertainment Co. said it was withdrawing reports about its 2010 financial earnings and said the company's finances will be affected for the next two quarters.

Mayor Karl Dean said he is still encouraging people to visit Nashville. "Opryland is obviously a very serious situation, and they're going to have to deal with the repair to the buildings and cleanup, which will take some time. That will have an impact on our local economy."

Tunes of heartache and loss floated out of the honky-tonks on Lower Broadway on Monday, while tourists shopped and gawked at the floodwaters that crept up Broadway to at least Second Avenue.

Some downtown businesses reported less tourist traffic than usual. "Right now, I think people are staying away," said Kandy Felker, a store manager at Boots N More on Lower Broadway.

The bigger issue for tourist-reliant businesses is what will happen without Gaylord guests this summer. "We'll be able to stay open, but it will affect us," said David Osborne, a manager at Second to None gift shop and the Charlie Daniels Museum on Second Avenue.

By Monday afternoon, water had risen to the third row of the subterranean Ford Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, but no water damage was expected to the museum's extensive collections, spokeswoman Liz Thiels said. Officials were to decide by 7 a.m. today whether to reopen.

The Grand Ole Opry has rescheduled shows to the Ryman Auditorium and War Memorial Auditorium, former homes to the Opry. The last time the Opry had to relocate was in 1975, when it temporarily moved to Municipal Auditorium, also because of Cumberland River flooding.

Only one downtown hotel , the Hampton Inn, had to close because of flooding. Hard Rock on Second Avenue will stay closed for another three to four days, as much of the beer, produce frozen goods and dry goods stored in its basement have been ruined, said general manager Jim McGonagle. Officials don't know when the Wildhorse will reopen.

At the Hilton Nashville Downtown, some 10 feet of water shut down its two-level underground garage on Monday, but all vehicles were moved to dry ground, said general manager Ray Waters. It could be today before the parking garage is accessible, he said. Inside the hotel, teh basement is flooded but no rooms are in danger, and the hotel was able to make 75 rooms available to guests evacuated from the Opryland Hotel.

Gaylord officals could not specify how long cleanup could take because they had not fully tallied damage and how much in sales the hotel would lose.

Last year, the hotel earned $55.3 million in revenue and had $13.6 million in cash flow during the second quarter, which runs from April to June.

Coincidentally, Gaylord Entertainment released its first-quarter report yesterday, with Opryland Hotel posting small increases in revenue and occupancy.

"They reported strong numbers with future bookings up attrition down and business in general turning the corner," said Amit Kapoor, an equity analyst who follows gaming and lodging for Gabelli & Co. in New York. Gabelli is a shareholder in Gaylord.

(More updates will come as the information becomes available. Thanks to all who have posted updates on their own.)

No comments:

Post a Comment