Austin Has Flights To Europe. Why Not Nashville?

British Airways isn't flying to Austin quite yet. The company announced in September it would begin four flights a week in March, increasing to daily service in May. Credit: AndrewC75 via Flickr

British Airways isn’t flying to Austin quite yet. The company announced in September it would begin four flights a week in March, increasing to daily service in May. Credit: AndrewC75 via Flickr

It’s not easy to get to Tennessee if you’re an international traveler. The corporate owner of tourist destinations in Nashville is leading a campaign for direct flights from Europe, South America and South Asia.

“It sickens me to know that Austin, Texas – this town that always wants to aspire to be like Nashville – is able to convince British Airways to go fly every day to Austin, Texas. It sickens me,”  Ryman Hospitality Properties CEO Colin Reed told the Downtown Nashville Rotary Club Monday.

Ryman owns Opryland Hotel as well as the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and Wildhorse Saloon, among other properties. It also had a hand in creating the ABC TV show “Nashville.” And Reed contends its syndication in 40 countries is proof that people would come to Tennessee and experience the music scene.

Already, overseas travel to the U.S. is at record highs, hitting nearly 30 million visits in 2012. That’s a 7 percent increase over the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office.

“The issue for us is do we want to be subordinate to that growth and have this growth go to the primary cities of America?” Reed asks. “Then if people really want to come to Nashville or come to Memphis or go to the Smoky Mountains, they have to go through another hub and find they’re way there.”

Reed heads up a state tourism panel that is creating a plan of action. He’s been talking to Governor Bill Haslam and top economic development officials about subsidizing an international airline to enter the Nashville market.

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