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Expert Insight from Wayne Chandler

Wayne Chandler has worked for the same organization for 30 years.

Employees in today’s economy rarely spend more than a few years at any one company. But at the Gaylord family of tourism and hospitality companies in Nashville, Tennessee, Chandler found a career, an industry he loves and a place to call home.

“I came to our company in 1988, three days after graduating college,” Chandler said. “I was student body president at Tusculum University, and one of my duties was to have a convocation once a month for different disciplines. For the business month, I called Opryland USA. I had no idea whether I would get to speak to someone. But the vice president of human resources came and spoke at the college, and he offered me a job that weekend. It was meant to be.”

Starting with his first post at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Chandler began a professional tour through the organization’s portfolio of Nashville attractions, including the now-defunct Opryland USA theme park.

“They were training us for 14 areas of the business, from being a step-on guide on the Grand Ole Opry tour bus to housekeeping, reservations and park relations,” he said. “It was an amazing overview of what the company had to offer.”

During his rotations through different areas of the organization, Chandler began to identify the kind of professional experience he enjoyed most — working directly with visitors.

“Customer interaction was very, very important for me,” he said. “It provided some immediate gratification whenever I got to work with groups and see them enjoy what we had to offer.”

Chandler got to work extensively with groups during his time as the performance manager at the theme park. He helped hundreds of church choirs, school bands and other groups set up musical performances and parades in the park. After the park closed, he transferred to the attractions division — now known as the Grand Ole Opry Entertainment Group — whose portfolio includes Nashville staples the Ryman Auditorium, Ole Red and the legendary Grand Ole Opry.

“It’s amazing to work here and walk in the footsteps of the artists who have performed here,” he said. “I don’t take that for granted. Sometimes I pinch myself and say, ‘Is this real? Do I get paid for this?’”

Today, Chandler is involved in all aspects of tourism sales for the attraction group, including international sales, and he leads a team of people in providing the same level of service and attention to detail that has always been the hallmark of Gaylord companies.

“Our main goal is to try to exceed every guest’s expectations when they come,” he said. “If you can delight each one of those guests, even if something doesn’t go as planned, you can find a way to make it right.”

When he’s not at the Opry or traveling to represent the company at tourism conferences, you can find Chandler enjoying other Nashville treasures.

“Fishing is my No. 1 exercise,” he said. “And, of course, music envelops you in this city. I enjoy going to the songwriters nights at the Listening Room or the Bluebird Café to hear the songwriters do their renditions of the songs they wrote. We have such a unique community of musicians all in one place.”

Sales Tip from Wayne

“It sounds very simple, but look people in the eye and smile. That’s one of the cornerstones of starting a relationship with anyone. It’s very important.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.