Back in March and April of 2020, the world was a very different place. A never-before-seen virus was rapidly spreading across the world, killing thousands of people every day. We had no cure, and extremely limited resources to treat the infected. The world went into lockdown. Markets crashed. Businesses closed. It was one of the scariest times in the lives of billions of people. 

It's easy to let time and hindsight bias make us forget how scary and uncertain those times were, and how obvious the market opportunities were back then. But there were wonderful opportunities for investors willing to take on some risk and give it time. My best coronavirus crash investment was Ryman Hospitality Properties (RHP 0.69%), with shares up 430% across three investments in mid-March 2023. 

Plenty of investors would have already sold, locking in those massive gains and moving on to find the next big winner. However, I firmly believe Ryman remains a top stock to buy, whether for dividends or total returns. Keep reading for two reasons I'd happily buy more. 

The buy thesis that paid off with five-bagger gains

Ryman is the name behind the Gaylord Hotels and Resorts, a half-dozen of the most valuable convention and event properties in North America. All located outside of Las Vegas, the Gaylord properties are very appealing for corporate events, industry trade shows, conventions, and other events large and small. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, business evaporated overnight. The company closed its properties, and customers cancelled events. The company's shares fell 85% in less than two months in 2020, as investors fled anything remotely tied to hospitality or public events. At that time, we truly had no idea how long these kinds of businesses would remain closed. People were literally dying from a highly contagious disease. 

But while many investors were selling in fear, I was hyper-focused on a longer-term view. Ryman management acted quickly to protect the business, halting the dividend and tapping all of its available debt to load the balance sheet with cash. As a result, it had enough money to support a skeleton-crew of operations for multiple years. And let's face it: If it took multiple years for doors to reopen, the world would face bigger problems than whether Ryman survived. 

So I made a risk-reward decision, and needless to say, it's paid off handsomely. 

Reason to buy: Ryman's core business is going to be increasingly in-demand and profitable

It took some time for business to recover, but today's Ryman is stronger and more profitable. It has seen demand for its resorts largely recover -- and at higher rates -- while also seeing a jump in leisure travel bookings. It also took advantage of the opportunity to buy out its joint venture partner in the Gaylord Rockies property, and now wholly owns all of the Gaylord resorts. 

Management sees a future that should result in increased demand for its Gaylord resorts. More companies have adopted remote and hybrid work, and tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are changing the work environment in permanent ways. As a result, demand for offsite, in-person work and industry events is likely to grow. Maintaining company culture and creating opportunities for in-person interaction are priorities, and Ryman is poised to profit from this rising tide. 

Reason to buy: The opportunity is bigger than just the Gaylord brand and management is getting it done

While Ryman has taken steps to improve its core brand and offerings, Ryman management sees these tailwinds as too big to just rely on its existing properties to profit from. Recently the company announced that it had acquired the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa from a Blackstone subsidiary. This massive property, on 640 acres, features two 18-hole golf courses, over 1,000 rooms, nearly 300,000 square feet of event space, eight restaurants, and a water park. 

In other words, management has very quickly pivoted from defense back to full-on offense. Its business results across its hospitality and entertainment segments are strong, improving, and set to grow for years to come. 

Keep looking ahead

It's easy to look backwards at a stock's returns (or losses) and make a decision. But as investors, we're building wealth for the future, and it can be a big mistake to sell a winner to "lock in gains." And I believe that's the case with Ryman right now. This is a leading brand with some of the most in-demand, valuable resort properties of its kind in the U.S., and management is intent on growing the brand and portfolio. With incredibly favorable long-term tailwinds for the industry, record profits and FFO coming in, and a plan to keep growing market share and profits, Ryman is worth holding. 

With shares trading for a reasonable price, and a forward dividend yield of 4% based on the 2023 dividend commitment and a plan to grow earnings for years to come, there's a very strong case to buy Ryman right now, too.