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Leaders bullish on return of tourism, entertainment business

Though much of Nashville’s tourism and entertainment business evaporated overnight in March, industry leaders were bullish about its return to full strength during a Thursday conference call.

In the early months of recovery from coronavirus-related shutdowns, Nashville’s tourism business will be fueled by people who can drive to the city, an advantage according to Nashville Convention Visitors Corporation CEO Butch Spyridon. The ability for people within a 250-mile radius to drive to Nashville will give the city “a quicker short-term rebound than other destinations,” he said.

Colin Reed, CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties, predicted that 2021 would be a “reasonably decent year” and that 2022 would see the local economy return “full bore.” In order to reach that point, he stressed, the city’s hospitality industry must communicate competence to potential visitors.

“We have to differentiate ourselves,” he said. “We have to convince the consumer that when they visit this town over the next few months, that this is is a place that is looking after their welfare, that it’s safe and secure, that it’s not a germ haven.”

Reed’s business, which operates large hotels and other attractions in Nashville and across the country, is losing millions of dollars a month while most of the properties remain closed. The company saw about a million room nights canceled in recent months, but Reed said Thursday that nearly 250,000 have been rebooked. (That’s up from almost 200,000 early this month.)

Reed also believes that a more permanent move to telework could benefit his company long term. Businesses allowing or encouraging more employees to work from home “stimulates the desire to bring them together once a year, twice a year,” Reed said.

Leaders from organizations including the Nashville Predators, the Country Music Association and Southwest Airlines also offered tempered optimism for

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