Country music at the heart of Nashville’s hotel growth

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While Nashville is the capital of Tennessee, a center of the health care, transportation and banking industries and home to Vanderbilt University and other colleges, it’s undoubtedly the city’s connection to music that makes it of such intense interest to hotel developers. Along with Austin, Texas, New Orleans and (to a lesser degree) Memphis and Branson, Mo., Nashville holds a special place in the hearts of a wide range of leisure travelers, group conference attendees and incentive program participants.

Nashville, after all, is the destination of five of the top venues in country music: the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Ryman Auditorium, the Johnny Cash Museum and, last but hardly least, The District, a collection of bars, clubs and other live music hangouts. And with 1.2 million square feet of meeting and exhibition space, the downtown, two-and-a-half year old Music City Convention City is another lure for hotel developers.

Recent development news includes Turnberry Associates’ plans to build a 36-story JW Marriott in the popular downtown SoBro (for South of Broadway) neighborhood; Virgin Hotels’ plans to build a 240-room tower downtown, including its own recording studio; and Z Hotels’ plans to construct an outpost of its Hotel ZaZa boutique chain in either SoBro, The Gulch or Vanderbilt-West End Corridor, two other submarkets.

Large New-Construction Pipeline

As of the end of the third quarter, Nashville had the 11th largest new-construction pipeline of any metropolitan market in the U.S., according to Lodging Econometrics: 72 projects announced, accounting for 9,102 rooms. Of those 72 projects, 13 (with 1,877 rooms) were under construction, 36 (with 4,904 rooms) were expected to start construction in the next 12 months and the remaining 23 (with 2,321 rooms) were still in the early planning stage.

Of the city’s existing inventory, Lodging Econometrics noted that 12 hotel conversions (with 1,227 rooms) were also under way at the end of the quarter, another sign of an active lodging market. The same, meanwhile, could be said of the transactions market, Lodging Econometrics tracking 22 Nashville hotels changing hands this year, accounting for 3,263 rooms.

Yet headline-worthy deals like plans for a luxury JW Marriott, upper-upscale Virgin or a boutique ZaZa don’t tell the whole Nashville development story. A number of the new construction projects and conversions involve the broad midmarket, both in downtown Nashville and its various submarkets in the Greater Nashville area.

Days Inn Leads the Wyndham Presence

The Wyndham Hotel Group, for example, with its roster of limited-service and select-service franchise brands, has 29 hotels in the market across eight brands. Days Inn leads the pack with 10 hotels, while another Wyndham legacy brand, Super 8, has seven and Ramada Worldwide has three.

Airports traditionally have large numbers of limited-service and select-service properties in and near the terminals because travelers are attracted by the price point and convenience. Not surprisingly, therefore, the Nashville International Airport submarket has Wyndham’s largest representation with six hotels, comprising two Super 8 properties, two Days Inn properties, a Baymont Inns & Suites and a Travelodge. The next greatest market penetration is the downtown market with five hotels, followed by the Franklin, Tenn., submarket with three.

In many ways, the 120-room Ramada Nashville Downtown’s value proposition sums up the appeal of these types of hotels. The location is excellent—1.2 miles from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and even closer (a five-minute walk) to Nissan Stadium, where the Tennessee Titans football team plays. The hotel features complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi, an indoor swimming pool and business and fitness centers.

A testament to how deeply embedded the country music heritage is in Nashville: The Ramada’s swimming pool is shaped like a guitar and is extremely popular with guests.

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