Reed: Ryman bookings picking up pace post-disruption

Shares recover after early-morning dive following Q4 report

Ryman Hospitality Properties posted a fourth-quarter loss of almost $15 million as it booked a $20 million gain on the sale of the Gaylord Hotels brand to Marriott International but spent more than $40 million to convert to a real estate investment trust.

Revenues at Nashville-based Ryman dipped slightly from the last three months of 2011 to $266 million. Occupancy at the four large hotels and convention centers under the company's umbrella fell to 69.5 percent from 72.2 percent — the Gaylord Opryland saw its number dip to 72.3 percent from 73.5 percent — while revenue per available room fell 3.5 percent to about $334.

Chairman, President and CEO Colin Reed said a big part of those drops was due to disruption among the company's salespeople as the company transitioned its day-to-day operations to Marriott. Comparing the Marriott deal and REIT conversion to dealing with the massive 2010 Cumberland River flood, Reed told analysts and investors on a conference call that the flood was "a breeze."

Many of those issues, though, will soon be behind Reed and his team. Only a few technology systems conversions remain as large hurdles and bookings have picked up the pace under the Marriott organization. On the call, Reed also said January room booking of 125,000 were double those of a year ago, adding that a good chunk of those were for events taking place this year.

Asked if those numbers suggest the sales staff upheavals have settled down, Reed said "it will probably take six months of loving, kissing and nurturing for us to have it behind us [...] But we're seeing decent production in an economically challenged time."

Shareholders of Ryman looked to be in for a bleak day in early trading, when the stock (Ticker: RHP) was changing hands down more than 4 percent. But likely in response to Reed's comments on the call — he also reiterated that the board intends to deploy excess cash toward share buybacks — it recovered quickly and steadily from there and at 1 p.m. was up slightly on the day. The shares are up 33 percent in the past three months.