Pay for Nashville’s Hospitality and Tourism Jobs Sees Rapid Increase

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(lr) Marie Sueing and Thom Druffel
(lr) Marie Sueing and Thom Druffel

NASHVILLE – New data recently released by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development shows Nashville’s tourist industry is hotter than ever, and growth in the industry has resulted in more jobs and better pay for local hospitality and tourism workers.

According to the state, 15.8 million visitors traveled to Nashville in FY18, up to seven percent more than the year before. Those visitors spent a staggering $7 billion last year, or one-third of all visitor spending in Tennessee. A closer look at the new state tourism numbers shows that the visitation and spending surge is good news for those who work, or who are interested in working, in the local hospitality industry.

Currently, there are a record-high 71,140 hospitality and tourism jobs in Davison County, a 4.1 percent increase than the year before. Wages and income for industry workers totaled $1.79 billion in FY 2018, an 8.3 percent increase from last year. With the growth rate of income and wages more than doubling that of job growth, hospitality workers have more earning potential in the Nashville area than they ever have before. The new state data also shows that Nashville’s tourism payroll growth in FY 2018 is more than double the national average. Tourism payroll grew 8.3% in Davidson County compared to 3.6% nationally.

“It’s no secret that Nashville’s hospitality and tourism industry is growing like never before,” said Marie Sueing, vice president of Multi-Cultural Community Relations with the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp (NCVC). “The new state tourism data clearly shows that it is translating into more and better-paying jobs for people in Davidson County. These are more than minimum wage jobs. They’re managerial and supervisor positions, and jobs connected to new businesses that are tapping into Nashville’s tourism boom.”

The rise in worker pay is perhaps not surprising considering that more than $7.3 billion of tourism-related investment in Davidson County has opened since 2018 or is under construction now. These include Fifth + Broadway/National Museum of African American Music, the MLS Stadium, SoundWaves at Gaylord Opryland Resort, Nashville International Airport’s expansion and renovation, and Nashville Yards.

The city’s rapid growth in the hotel and restaurant industries have also contributed significantly to more jobs and increased pay. In 2019 alone, 103 new restaurants, bars, and cafes have opened or announced openings in 19 different Nashville neighborhoods, including Antioch, Bellevue, South Nashville, Hermitage, and Donelson. This is compared to 133 establishments that opened in 2018, 113 in 2017 and 90 in 2016. This year, 20 hotel properties with 2,400 rooms have opened or have announced openings, and 38 hotel properties have opened since 2014.

The demand for high-level hospitality and tourism professionals has led to an increased number of industry-related college programs in the Nashville area. Tennessee State University, Belmont University, Middle Tennessee State University, David Lipscomb University, and Nashville State have all seen increased interest in their hospitality and tourism programs as students look to tap into new professional opportunities across the Metro area.

“There are only a few other places in the entire country to, not only receive a strong hospitality and tourism management education but also find a range of professional employment opportunities than Nashville,” said Thom Druffel, General Manager at the Holiday Inn at Vanderbilt and adjunct professor in Tennessee State University’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program. “Students at Nashville-area colleges are getting hands-on experience in one of the hottest tourism destinations in the whole world, and many of them are parlaying that into promising career opportunities.”

For job seekers looking to tap into the many new employment openings across Davidson County, the Nashville Conventions and Visitor Corp have a program called “Hospitality Works” to help connect employers with potential employees. More information about the program can be found at www.visitmusiccity.com/hospitalityworks.

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