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Memphis tourism industry updates its job losses during COVID-19, lays out its plan to bring back visitors

April was the worst month in modern Memphis tourism industry

MEMPHIS, Tennessee —

After the worst month in modern Memphis tourism history in April -- and thousands of layoffs -- the industry is slowly bouncing back. Wednesday we learned the scope of local tourism job losses at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and how the industry is improvising in recruiting new visitors.

"There were a lot of tears, it's been very difficult,” The Peabody Memphis General Manager Doug Browne said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic’s negative impact peaked locally, The Peabody Memphis’ occupancy plummeted to 4% some nights, forcing 85% of its employees -- more than 400 -- to be furloughed.

"Many of those associates had been with us 30, 40 years,” Browne said.

The Peabody wasn’t alone in staggering local tourism job losses this spring. The Safer at Home shutdown decimated the area’s industry, furloughing or laying off an estimated 2/3 or more the total workforce.

"We have close to 50,000 employees, we know it's a large number,” Memphis Tourism President & CEO Kevin Kane said.

But after April’s historic lows, some recent positive trends emerged. The week of May 17th saw an increase of 28% of visitors compared to the week before.

"It's coming back slowly but surely and that's good news, that will get people back to work,” Kane said.

With much air travel grounded for the foreseeable future, Memphis Tourism launched a new ad campaign to entice leisure travelers to drive in within a 600-mile radius and visit -- or revisit -- well known destinations.

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"Attractions are starting to open, museums, etc.,” Kane said. “They are going to have to have people, so you are going to see people coming off those unemployment rolls.”

As the Memphis tourism industry rebounds during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greater Memphis Chamber also continues its effort to retain and recruit new jobs to the area.

Since March, 24 companies expressed interest in relocating to Memphis.

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