Live events can be key to getting the hospitality industry back on track


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The American Hotel and Lodging Association calls 2022 “the year of the new traveler.”

According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), the 2022 State of the Hospitality Industry Report predicts an uneven and volatile recovery in the United States.

Although the industry continues to head towards recovery this year, with occupancy rates and room revenue close to pre-pandemic levels, experts say full recovery is years away, mainly due ancillary revenue which includes food and beverage and meeting space.

Large live events in Nashville continue to play an important role in helping to get Nashville’s hospitality industry back on its feet.

In 2020-21, Tennessee hotels lost more than $1.8 billion in room revenue, with $296 million lost in state and local tax revenue.

Now we are moving forward.

“I love what 2022 looks like,” said Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation. “I am very optimistic.”

Spyridon says this is more than wishful thinking; his optimism is backed by facts.

“New Years Eve was a record night for hotel sales. October was a record month for hotel tax collection and the summer was pretty good,” he said.

Hotel tax collections in October 2021 represented the highest monthly collection in the city’s history.

Additionally, Davidson County hotel occupancy as of December 31, 2021 was 79% with a record 29,118 hotel rooms sold, an increase from 25,529 rooms sold as of December 31, 2019. The NCVC says it is growth that is more important than ever as 3,752 additional hotel rooms have been added to the market since then.

Leisure travelers will continue to drive the recovery, with business travel, meetings and events lagging behind.

“It’s 40 percent of our business,” Spyridon said. “We need it.”

He says NCVC only saw one big cancellation for February, and unfortunately due to the omicron variant, they lost most of their planned January business.

According to STR, hotel occupancy in Nashville for the week ending 1/15 was 49.9%. At this time in 2019, the occupancy rate was 64.72%.

Spyridon hopes to end the year 65% or better.

Like other industries, hotels are facing a significant labor shortage that could impact the recovery. In fact, the AHLA says the pandemic has wiped out 10 years of job growth.

In 2019, hotels in Tennessee directly employed 42,022 people. They ended 2021 with 35,604 jobs, a loss of 6,418 or 15.3%.

“It’s been an ongoing problem, for 12 months,” Spyridon said. “It’s better, but it’s still a problem finding manpower so restaurants can be fully open, rooms can be cleaned, room service. You know the hotels have been extremely creative and flexible and noble in the way they have adapted but it would be good for everyone to have full staff but it will be a two year process I am absolutely sure.

The AHLA Foundation is launching a campaign to help fill the hundreds of thousands of open jobs in the hospitality industry. “The Hotel Industry: A Place to Stay” aims to help job seekers discover the more than 200 career paths and the many benefits offered by the industry, including competitive salaries, benefits, flexible hours and travel opportunities.

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