Nashville tourism officials worry negative press will cause 'coronavirus hangover'

Posted at 6:30 AM, Aug 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-09 07:30:15-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In recent weeks, Nashville has received national attention as pictures of crowded Broadway sidewalks and packed house parties have gone viral. Now the city's top tourism official worries the negative press could have a lasting impact on Music City's image.

"It's an absolute concern," said Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. "Trending nationally on social media for those types of issues, it's not the PR we’re looking for."

In March, a tweet showing a packed Broadway honky tonk made national headlines. Weeks later, images of crowded sidewalks outside of Broadway Bars went viral. Last weekend, posts from a Nashville house party with thousands of mask-less attendees gained national attention as well.

The attention comes while Nashville's tourism industry is struggling. As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, so does the virus's 10-figure financial impact.

"We're down about $2 billion in visitor spending since March and there's no light at the end of the tunnel," Spyridon said.

Now, he worries that tunnel could be extended because of viral posts that could keep more tourists away.

"It's not just ‘we’re not coming now,' it’ll linger for a long time there will be a hangover," he said. "More cases and more negative PR is only going to delay our ability to get out of this."

This week, Mayor John Cooper issued a message to visitors during a COVID-19 briefing, telling tourists to follow the rules or stay home.

"If you are willing to follow the rules and respect the health and dignity of those living and working in our community, you are welcome here. Otherwise, Nashville is not the place for you," Cooper said.