As cities around the country try to keep local businesses and workers afloat during the pandemic-related economic shutdown, the meetings and hospitality industry is demonstrating its strength. In early April, two big convention destinations with sufficiently robust fiscal situations tied to their meetings and hospitality sectors were able to reallocate money in ways that help maintain some operations and continue paying worker salaries.
In Nashville, the Convention Center Authority approved a one-time payment of $40 million to assist Metro Nashville, which is the government of the city and all of Davidson County, with its budget shortfall. The money is allocated to assist Metro Nashville with expenses that are related to the tourism industry.
As of May 2018, the NCCA—operator of the 500,000-square-foot Music City Center, the city’s downtown convention center—had a surplus of more than $103 million from visitor-targeted taxes such as hotel-occupancy fees and sales tax on alcoholic drinks in tourist districts. “We are fortunate to be in a position during these uncertain times where we can help the city of Nashville with its budgetary challenges,” said Charles Starks, president/CEO of Music City Center. Additionally, Music City Center staff are being fully compensated during the shutdown; non-operational team members continue to work remotely, abiding by Metro’s and the state of Tennessee’s Safer at Home regulations.
In Washington, D.C., the official convention and sports authority, Events DC, announced an $18 million hospitality and tourism relief package to address the impact of the pandemic on local businesses and workers. The relief package will provide support to restaurants, hotels, and undocumented workers.
“The hospitality and tourism industry has been upended by the pandemic, and Events DC plays an important role with the ability to provide aid and support to our local partners—the backbone of our city’s economy,” said Max Brown, board chair of Events DC. “This $18 million relief package will provide a vital lifeline of support and supplements what Mayor Bowser and the Council of the District of Columbia have approved over the last several weeks.”
The relief package includes:
- $5 million for hospitality and restaurant recovery efforts, including worker and venue-operator relief
- $5 million for hotels’ recovery efforts, including both worker and venue-operator programs
- $5 million for undocumented workers across Washington, D.C.
- $3 million dedicated to destination marketing efforts, with the focus on bringing visitors back to the city
“As this unprecedented global health crisis is severely affecting all of us—our city, our hospitality industry, and our residents—it is our duty to act responsibly and do what we can to support our industry,” said Greg O’Dell, president and CEO of Events DC. “The goal of this relief fund is not only to help our local hospitality and tourism industry now, but to help fuel recovery. I am grateful for the resiliency of our industry and everyone’s willingness to support each other and stand in solidarity during these difficult times.”
The hospitality and tourism industry is Washington, D.C.’s second largest industry, employing more than 80,000 people. Events DC oversees the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which hosts more than 1.7 million visitors and generates more than $400 million annually in total economic impact.