Memphis tourism heading towards full pre-pandemic recovery; new focus on international travelers in 2023

Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 6:32 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2023 at 6:38 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Over 11 million visitors chose Memphis as their vacation or business destination.

Memphis Tourism officials say the city is well on its way to pre-pandemic numbers, in some categories even surpassing it.

Memphis Tourism President Kevin Kane says national economists had recovery in the bluffy city coming sometime in late 2023, maybe 2024.

Around Wednesday afternoon, there were tourists from all over the world on Beale Street including tourists from Austria, Knoxville and Chicago.

Food, sports, and the city’s rich cultural history are all the top drivers of Memphis, but the number one driver for tourism in Memphis is music.

“Oh, I love the Blues so I don’t know if there’s any around here. We’ll have to see at nighttime,” said Greg Elboar from Chicago.

There’s been a lot of love for the bluff city.

1 million additional visitors came to the area from October 2021 to October of last year and in certain categories, the city is surpassing pre-pandemic numbers.

Day trips to Memphis increased by over 18%.

Downtown Memphis hotels have seen a full recovery, with demand growing by 35%. Travel party size has rebounded as well

The President of Memphis Tourism Kevin Kane says getting more tourists to Memphis isn’t by chance.

“So everything we do is based on research. We spend over a million dollars a year in various metrics and research tools,” said Kane.

While regional tourists are still the major draw, targeting international guests will be an additional priority.

COVID travel restrictions nearly depleted international travel numbers in 2020,  but economists are expecting a full rebound in 2023.

“Memphis is positioned to take full advantage of that, we were one of the few destinations that did not stop international marketing efforts during Covid. A lot of people completely shut their operations down,” said Kane.

In Memphis, they increased international marketing in places like Australia, where a portion of the new Elvis Presley movie was filmed.

Recently,  Australia outranked Germany in most international visitors to the Mid-south moving Australia into the third spot behind the United Kingdom and Canada.

In terms of regional travel, the top 3 city travelers to Memphis come from Atlanta, Little Rock and number one is Nashville.

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