Today is the grand opening of Music City’s latest full-service hotel, The Westin Nashville
. Located downtown near Eighth and Clark streets, adjacent to the convention center and a few blocks from the main entertainment district on Broadway, the Starwood (now Marriott) property is quite well-positioned—and not only from a geographical standpoint. Buzz about the city has reached an all-time high over the last few years, not only for its country music scene, but also for its industry. More than 300 health care companies call Nashville home, and the auto industry has generated more than 30,000 jobs in the area, Business Journal
reported last year. Indeed, there’s never been a better time to meet in Nashville—a fact with which Randy Erickson, director of sales and marketing at The Westin, surely agrees.
Why was this property a good fit for Nashville?
Nashville is a very hot city… it’s perfect timing. We have the huge Music City Center, which is a great facility from the convention standpoint. Bringing 453 more rooms [with this hotel] to the city will give it an added boost. The customer is looking for the full-service aspect in a hotel. There’s a lot of demand out there for Nashville from both transient and groups.
You were previously DOS at Hilton Nashville Downtown. How have you seen the MICE industry in the city change in the last five years?
Various factors made Nashville hot, but one has to do with the TV show “Nashville.” The marketing from the CVC [Visit Music City] added to national and international appeal. It’s a small town that is growing into a big city, but keeps that small-town atmosphere. People here are very welcoming and sincere. It’s also so easy to get here, as we have great flights into Nashville.
Tell me about your sales efforts so far.
We’re booking a good mix of corporate and association, and also citywides. We’re putting a lot of focus on the D.C. area and Southeast. Ideally we’ll book business Sunday through Thursday, with Thursday a transitional day and leisure coming in for the weekends. Our first group is coming mid-October, and we have business on the books through 2025. A good size is about 250 room nights on peak, but we will take groups up to 360 rooms.
Why is Westin’s meeting space different from that of other hotels downtown?
We like to say we provide an aspirational atmosphere and genuine service. There’s about 20,000 square feet of meeting space and 12 meeting rooms, so we have a nice, tight footprint. We have a ballroom on one level, and then you can take half a flight of stairs to another ballroom or up to another level, so it’s all very convenient.
Any space that truly reflects the culture of Nashville?
We have L27, our rooftop bar and lounge. It’s on the 27th floor. We’ll have live music up there soon. The job of our director of entertainment, Michael McDavid, is to connect our hotel to local entertainment and bring in that Nashville-chic experience. If a group needs a band, acoustic setup, etc., he’s there to assist.
You hold a degree in journalism and PR from San Diego State. How has that background helped you in your hospitality career?
I think you learn more from the social aspects of school—not necessarily from the book smarts. That [education] certainly helped me out back in the ’70s, but now my experience comes into play. I’ve learned more over the last 35 years in this business, working with a number of cities and brands and companies, than I did in four years of schooling.