published Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Tourism officials reach out, open doors

by Tamara Best

Only days after floodwaters from the Cumberland River ravaged Nashville, local tourism officials said they are doing everything they can to assist that city.

Mike Shuford, executive director of the Chattanooga Convention Center, said the primary goal is to keep conventions in Nashville and then relocate them elsewhere in the state if necessary.

Damaged by the floods, the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center is closed with no indication of when or if it may reopen.

"It's certainly tragic what happened, and we as Chattanoogans will do everything we can to help Opryland and its guests moving forward," said Bob Doak, president of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We're all very concerned as a tourism industry."

Part of that help could mean accommodating guests at area hotels and meeting spaces.

Though it is unclear whether conventions will be relocated to Chattanooga, conventions already scheduled for this area may make it difficult to accommodate larger groups hoping to move their events from Nashville, Mr. Doak said.

For instance, a 2,200-person group had hoped to move from Nashville to Chattanooga next weekend, he said, "which we couldn't accommodate because we already had another group coming."

Via its website, Opryland officials said they hope to have a full assessment of damage completed and information on reopening by the end of the week.

Officials said they are contacting clients with events or reservations scheduled within the next 90 days to assist them in relocation within Gaylord Hotels locations in Florida, Texas and Maryland.

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