Opryland Turns Disaster Into Opportunity

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There's a fascinating story playing out in Nashville, and I can't wait to see how it ends. As you may remember, the Opryland Hotel was devastated by a hundred-year flood this spring that knocked the 2,881-room mega-convention hotel out of commission until some time this fall. It was a tragedy for Gaylord Entertainment, the hotel's owners; the 1,700 workers who lost their jobs; and for the entire Nashville tourism economy.

But according to a recent story in the Nashville Business Journal, the company is turning disaster into opportunity. Led by charismatic CEO Colin Reed, Gaylord has used the three months since the hotel closed to build for the future, not look to the past. In a speech to local leaders last week, Reed says the company has nearly completed the flood cleanup, which caused $225 million in damage (in addition to $62 million in lost business so far.) And until the planned November reopening, crews will perform nearly $30 million in additional upgrades that were planned before the tragedy struck.

And the company's sales team has been hard at work: Reed says the hotel has booked 300,000 roomnights from January to June of 2011. That's a 10-percent increase in advanced bookings from the same date last year. Even more heartening was news the hotel has begun rehiring its laid-off work force.

The secret, Reed told the business group, was the company's extensive disaster plan. And as he so eloquently said, “It's absolutely stupid for organizations—it doesn't matter how big or how small—not to be prepared for emergencies.”

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