With a steady supply of new “hotel rooms and barstools” coming in, Nashville’s tourism chief says the most promising way to fill them, long-term, could be by courting international visitors.
“We’re not sure how much better we can do domestically,” says Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation.
Already, Nashville is regularly leading the nation in the growth of hotel rooms sold. But there could be more untapped travel dollars abroad.
“The incremental growth, we think, is a much better story on the international side,” Spyridon said.
The CVC’s efforts jumped in the past year as British Airways launched nonstop flights to and from London — and quickly increased the frequency of those trips to daily.
“An overwhelming success,” Spyridon said.
In the coming year, London will remain a priority, as well as Germany, France and Australia — where the Country Music Association has expanded its marketing.
“Their audience … is the most like Nashville of any audience we’ve seen,” Spyridon said. “They’re friendly. They like our music.”
But tourism is not just the work of the CVC. A group of a dozen southeastern states join forces together to market in Japan. And a single brand like Jack Daniel’s whiskey can move masses.
An array of international tourists mentioned the Lynchburg distillery as a reason for coming — or at least for putting Tennessee on the map.
“You have Jack Daniel’s on every single tube and underground platform in London advertising big and large, so you should have some traffic from that,” said Michael Francoise, who visited this month.
Music and barbecue were also, predictably, on tourists’ tongues.
“I love country music. I’ve loved the show Nashville — that was a big reason,” said Yvette Dahlke, who visited from Toronto and quickly got herself into bright green boots before visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“Toronto culture’s not very country — cowboy boots, things like that,” she said.
Already, Tennessee knows international tourism is growing.
In mid-2018, the state was named as the U.S. destination with the highest rate of growth.