Beale Street remains Tennessee's No.1 tourist destination.
Music is the core of an economic engine that brought a record 11.8 million visitors to Memphis last year who brought (and left) $3.5 billion here, according to Memphis Tourism’s latest figures.
Memphis Tourism is the area’s official destination marketing organization. In its annual MEMTalks industry event Thursday, Tourism officials announced the new record.
“As we celebrate our history as the home of blues, soul, and rock-and-roll, as an organization, we’ve also worked aggressively to set the stage for future growth and new development for tourism as an economic engine for our community, one that generates $1.13 billion in annual wages in Shelby County,” said Kevin Kane, Memphis Tourism president and CEO. “In the first few months of the year, we are very encouraged by the growth in visitation that we are already seeing in 2019, up 7 percent over 2018.”
The report said “music continues to be the core motivator for visitors” coming to Memphis. Peak tourist season falls between March and October here “when 1 million plus visitors arrive in Memphis and Shelby County each month.”
Tourism is booming alongside the development boom happening in Memphis, the report said, noting the surge in hotel rooms here.
”There are over 50 new hotels recently opened, under construction, or in planning across Memphis and Shelby County, with 15 of those hotel projects located in Downtown Memphis. The Downtown core will eventually see the addition of over 2,000 new hotel rooms, adding to current inventory of (more than) 4,000 Downtown hotel rooms.”
Those rooms will be needed, according to Tourism, as the renovation of the Memphis Convention Center nears completion. The center will feature a column-free 118,000-square-foot main exhibit hall, a new exterior concourse and pre-function space, 46 breakout rooms, secondary flex space that converts to a 67,500-square-foot ballroom — the largest in the region, according to Tourism — and a 28,000-square foot ballroom to host smaller events.
“This long anticipated renovation will make Memphis competitive in the meetings and conventions market, while complementing the already strong leisure market segment,” Kane said. “A vital civic project, this will transform our city’s convention center into a modern showplace that preserves its status as a major economic engine for the destination.”
Where do Memphis tourists come from? In the U.S., they come mostly from Nashville, Dallas, Atlanta, Little Rock, and Chicago. From across the world, they come mostly from Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia.