Hotel rooms filling up for CMA Fest; hotel occupancy rebounding in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – With CMA Fest one week away, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp said hotel occupancy is about 80% to 85% in the city in anticipation of the event.

CMA Fest was canceled the last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic and this year’s event is expected to draw a big crowd.

“CMA Fest is a very busy week. We still have some rooms to sell, so book now because we will be sold out by next week,” Virgin Hotel General Manager Phil Forte said.

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

“If we end up where we were in 2019, we would be around 30,000 hotel rooms booked,” Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp President Deana Ivey said. “Knowing we’ve added 5,000 hotel rooms since the last CMA Fest, it really speaks well to how visitors are coming back and want to be here in Nashville and filling up those extra rooms.”

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

Hotel occupancy is rebounding through the pandemic and big events add to that boost.

“In 2020 weekends were fairly strong but midweek was a real struggle for not just our hotel, but for the entire city. We saw occupancy as low as 15, 20% on many weeks,” Forte said. “In 2022, luckily weekends are continuing to stay strong with occupancy as high as 80s and 90s and midweek we’re getting back to that 60, 70% occupancy we saw back in 2019.”

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

Hotel rooms may be filling quickly but filling hotel staff positions isn’t rebounding as quickly.

“Staffing is a challenge for everyone, especially in the hospitality industry, and it has continued to be,” Forte said. “It is a struggle, but we do have an outstanding team here.”

“We’re adding all these hotels and the rooms, and we need the people to work on the industry because we 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 working with them on what kind of incentives they can offer to staff to try to get them to come on board with signing bonuses or extra vacation.”

After a tough two years, events like the CMA Fest gives hope for the future for those in the hospitality industry.

“For many of us, it’s re-energized us in terms of how we approach hospitality in 2022 and beyond,” Forte said.

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

“March was the biggest direct spending that we’ve had ever in this city. April looks like it’s going to be the best month and if everything goes as we expect, June might be the best month in the city’s history,” Ivey said.

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