Hotel rooms fill up for CMA Fest; Hotel occupancy rebounds in Nashville


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) — With CMA Fest a week away, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp said hotel occupancy is around 80% to 85% in the city ahead of the event.

CMA Fest has been canceled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this year’s event is expected to draw a large crowd.

“The CMA Fest is a very busy week. We still have a few rooms to sell so book now as we will be fully booked by next week,” said Virgin Hotel General Manager Phil Forte.

The 262-room Virgin Hotel opened in July 2020, and filled rooms are good news for the hotel and the city of Nashville.

“If we end up where we were in 2019, we would have about 30,000 hotel rooms booked,” said Deana Ivey, president of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. “Knowing that we’ve added 5,000 hotel rooms since the last CMA Fest speaks volumes about how visitors keep coming back and wanting to be here in Nashville and fill those extra rooms.”

According to the NCVC, in 2021, 11 properties with 1,709 rooms opened in Nashville. In 2022, 12 establishments with 2,094 rooms have opened or will open.

Hotel occupancy is rebounding during the pandemic and major events are adding to that boost.

“In 2020, the weekends were pretty strong, but the midweek was a real struggle not only for our hotel, but for the whole city. We’ve seen occupancy as low as 15, 20% over several weeks,” Forte said. “In 2022 thankfully the weekends continue to remain strong with occupancy as high as the 80s and 90s and midweek we are back to that 60, 70% occupancy that we saw in 2019.”

“In March, we sold 853,000 hotel rooms. It’s about 8.5% before March 2019,” Ivey said.

Hotel rooms may fill up quickly, but hotel staff positions don’t rebound as quickly.

“Staffing is a challenge for everyone, especially in the hospitality industry, and it continues to be the case,” Forte said. “It’s a struggle, but we have an exceptional team here.”

“We’re adding all these hotels and the rooms, and we need people to work on the industry because we’ve lost a lot in the pandemic,” Ivey said. “It’s getting better. They’re starting to add more people coming back. I think some of them are still giving up like housekeeping every day. We’re trying to do these job fairs and work with them on the type of incentives they can offer staff to try to get them to join us with signing bonuses or extra vacations.

After two difficult years, events like the CMA Fest give hope for the future to players in the hospitality industry.

“For many of us, it has re-energized us as to how we approach hospitality in 2022 and beyond,” Forte said.

The Visitors Corp said the CMA Fest really kicks off the summer in Nashville and is expected to generate about $60 million in direct visitor spending.

“March was the biggest direct spend we’ve ever had in this city. April looks like the best month and if all goes according to plan, June could be the best month in the city’s history,” Ivey said.

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