Gaylord: Many clients staying within resort network

'Several of our competitors are like buzzards you see around dead deer on the highway'

UPDATED with new third paragraph on relocations

Gaylord Entertainment Chairman and CEO Colin Reed this morning told investors and analysts that clients representing more than 20,000 room nights already have committed to moving events displaced by the flooding of Opryland to other Gaylord resorts.

Reed said meeting planners representing another 38,000 room nights also are considering relocating their events to the Gaylord Palms, Gaylord Texan and Gaylord National resorts. In addition, about 30 groups representing more than 50,000 room nights are looking to keep their events in Nashville.

Later on Friday, Gaylord said Opryland had booked 181,600 room nights from group travelers in the next three months. Of those, about 8,800 have been transferred to other Nashville-area hotels and another 800 will stay in Franklin.

President and COO David Kloeppel said the relocating groups’ contracts are being honored as written with only minor adjustments for things like travel costs. Reed said that, while his team is committed to transparency as it works on the recovery, it will be more guarded with pricing info for competitive reasons.

“Several of our competitors are like buzzards you see around dead deer on the highway,” he said.

Reed said that damage assessment and recovery planning work should be complete in about two weeks. Until then, his sales team will take no reservations for Opryland rooms and events between now and the end of October. Reed made sure to point out that that date is a rough estimate and doesn’t mean the 4 million-square-foot complex will be closed until then.

Asked if he could estimate the dollar costs of the Flood of 2010 – “The problem with that is that the number becomes folklore” – Reed declined but added that he thinks it will be “nowhere near” the $200 million and $300 million estimates he’s heard tossed out. He also is a lot more optimistic than earlier in the week about how quickly Opryland can be brought back into service.

“We do not believe that this flooding … will have any impact beyond 2010,” Reed said, later adding that Opryland “is a very, very, very well-built hotel… I really don’t think we’re gonna be ripping a lot of stuff out.”

Shares of Gaylord (Ticker: GET) were down almost 5 percent at 9:40 a.m., but have gradually recovered since. At about 12:45, they were off just 1 percent. They’ve fallen 17 percent this week versus the S&P 500’s 6 percent drop.