Downtown Memphis Tourism Development Zone facing major shortfall due to pandemic

Updated: Nov. 30, 2020 at 7:36 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With tourism and the overall local economy suffering downtown during the COVID-19 pandemic, the downtown Tourism Development Zone brought in $4 million dollars less than expected in the 2020 fiscal year.

The TDZ could fall even shorter next year. Fewer visitors and fewer people spending money downtown equals millions of lost revenue for the Downtown Memphis Tourism Development Zone.

The TDZ compiles earnings from state sales tax and local sales tax spent in downtown and surrounding areas.

”Unfortunately COVID has had an impact on that and the city will just have to deal with it,” said Kevin Kane, President and CEO of Memphis Tourism. The TDZ was established in 2001.

Kane says it has outperformed expectations every year assembling approximately $20 million or more annually to be used to pay debt or provide funding for major construction projects.

In the 2020 fiscal year, which ended in June amid the pandemic, the TDZ only produced $16 million.

”COVID has completely wrecked any place where we have crowds,” Kane said. “Well, downtown is all about crowds, the Orpheum, FedExForum, AutoZone Park.”

With an unknown reduction in revenue for the TDZ expected in 2021, the funding for projects including moving the Brooks Museum downtown and improvements to Tom Lee Park may get more difficult.

”Fiscal 2021 that we’re in right now, may be very difficult as well as we’re still kind of dealing with the ramifications of the impact of COVID,” said Kane. 

He says the only ray of light on the horizon is a COVID-19 vaccine. He believes the downtown economy and funding for the TDZ can return quickly.

” Visitors are going to come flying back in as soon as they feel comfortable and safe enough to travel,” said Kane. “They want to come to Memphis. This is one of those destinations that people will come to.”

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