Nashville’s $450 Million Downtown Investment Offers Renewed Tourism Hope

Innovating amid budget slashes, natural disasters, plus a pandemic, takes vision. 

With backyard tourism now on a new pedestal, plus a high vaccination rate, Nashville’s tourism execs are beginning to see their efforts bear fruit after having had some of the best tourism numbers in the country pre-pandemic.

— Lebawit Lily Girma

Tornadoes, a pandemic, a George Floyd rally that turned violent, a bombing, and this week, floods. It’s enough to send any major city’s visitor economy crumbling, not to recoup in years.

But Nashville, a destination with one of the highest demands for hotel rooms in the U.S. pre-Covid, remains optimistic about the future of its tourism industry. Music City has begun experiencing a rebound this month. There’s the city’s high vaccine uptake — expected to reach 40 percent by the end of April, bringing it closer to herd immunity —plus Covid fatigued Americans on spring break.

But there’s also more behind Nashville’s promise of recovery: it’s the city’s biggest downtown makeover in years. The $450 million Broadway and Fifth, a 200,000 square feet retail, food and entertainment multi-use complex was completed and opened this month, along with the National Museum on African American Music. Hotel projects are also in the pipeline, including the W Hotel, Hyatt Centric, and Embassy Suites and 1 Hotel.