Floods, CMA Music Fest help fill local hotel rooms

By SAM HATCHERThe Wilson PostA combination of storm victims looking for temporary housing and Nashville’s CMA Music Fest is providing higher than normal occupancy rates for many local hotels.Innkeepers across the county generally agree that the CMA Music Fest, an event that draws thousands to the Nashville area annually, is good for the lodging business in Wilson County.This year the situation in Nashville is even more strained as visitors planning to attend the CMA event find that there are fewer rooms available than normal because many of the hotel rooms in Nashville are still being occupied by victims of the floods in early May.Jason Pitkin at the Hampton Inn in Mt. Juliet said his hotel is still housing a couple of guests who are flood victims. He said at the time of the flood the hotel accommodated some 10 or so flood victims and also housed a number of employees with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.Now Pitkin says the hotel is getting ready for a next week’s CMA Music Fest saying “we’re pretty much booked” meaning the hotel is near full capacity.Other local hotel operators had similar stories to tell.At the Comfort Suites in Lebanon the desk manager said her hotel took care of a “few” flood victims but mostly provided rooms to guests who could not get in hotels in Nashville during that time because many of the rooms there were taken by flood victims.She said the situation of Nashville hotels being overbooked for next weekend’s CMA Music Fest will likely again send lodging business to Lebanon.“We’ve already had a call from the Nashville Visitors Bureau asking if we have rooms available” for next week, she said. The CMA Music Fest runs from June 10 through June 13.The Executive Inn in Lebanon also said the CMA Music Fest annually brings guests to its hotel.A spokesman for the Executive Inn said that hotel had only two or so guests as a result of the floods but said there are several reservations on the book now for next week’s CMA event.There are about 1,500 hotel rooms in Wilson County.According to Ricky Rodriguez, executive director of the Wilson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, May was a “banner month” with respect to occupancy rates locally.He credited part of the high occupancy rates to the floods but said much of the overnight stays in Wilson County should be attributed to tourism.Each night stay in Wilson County puts money in local government coffers.The local hotel tax rate county wide for Wilson County is five percent with an additional two percent for guests staying in the city of Lebanon and an additional five percent for the Mt. Juliet.According to Rodriguez, hotel occupancy rates for the county are moving in a positive direction. He said year-to-date occupancy rates are significantly ahead of last year. The year-to-date occupancy rate for 2010 is at 58 percent which Rodriguez said is 17 percent better than the same period last year.CEO Sam Hatcher may be contacted at shatcher@wilsonpost.com.