NEW YORK (AP) The city’s tourist industry is bracing for a second-quarter slump after a summer that saw tourists abandon Nashville for more lucrative destinations like Orlando, Las Vegas and San Diego.
“This is a time for Nashville to focus on its growth and to build a vibrant, long-term tourism industry,” said Tom Pomeranz, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Greater Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, the state’s tourism agency.
The city of about 50,000 is still growing, with more than 3.2 million visitors last month, but its tourism business has been hit by a sharp drop in revenue as the summer season wore on.
The decline has been blamed on a drop in convention business, the closure of bars and restaurants and other factors.
The number of visitors to the city fell 1.2 percent in the three months ended June 30 from a year earlier, according to a report released Thursday by the bureau.
Visitors also flocked to other destinations, including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston, as well as smaller towns in the Midwest and the Southeast.
The bureau’s report also found that the number of vacationers in the state declined 6.4 percent from the year before, even as the number overall rose 3.3 percent.
It’s unclear if Nashville’s woes will have a lasting impact on tourism, which has experienced a surge in popularity since the summer’s record-setting heat wave in August.
The tourism industry has been struggling for years amid a host of factors, including the high cost of airfare and hotel stays.
But there are signs it is starting to pick up steam.
The bureau reported a 3.6 percent increase in tourism revenue for the quarter ended June, the highest in three years.
The industry has also grown its overall business, said Pomerantz, who is also the president of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Association.
The trend is expected to continue as the winter months kick off, when the sun sets on the Great Smoky Mountains and cools off in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.
In July, the Nashville region saw its biggest month in more than a decade, according the bureau, with 1.7 million visitors and 4.1 million hotel stays, the largest monthly surge since April 2013.
The tourist industry also is growing rapidly in the city’s historic downtown area, where the economy is growing by 7.7 percent.
That’s a marked jump from the citywide 4.4 percentage point increase between July and August last year.
In Nashville, the city is growing at double the national average, which means the city was also among the fastest-growing in the country last year, according a new report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
But Nashville’s tourism sector remains heavily reliant on the city for about 60 percent of its revenue, according Pomerenz.
The tourism bureau reported that tourism revenue in Nashville averaged $2.6 billion in 2016, down from $3.3 billion in 2015.
That’s down from more than $5 billion a year ago.
Pomeranz said it’s possible the tourism downturn could last for years.
In an interview with the bureau in July, he said the city will continue to look for ways to attract tourists in the coming years.
“I think we have some pretty good opportunities in the near term to expand our tourist presence,” he said.