MEMPHIS, Tennessee — There's new life and new hope in downtown Memphis these days, as the recently renovated Renasant Convention Center is again open for business.
This week, a robotics and logistics conference is among the largest gathering since the center reopened and tourism leaders are buzzing about many more bookings in the months ahead.
The more visitors who fill the halls, the better it is for those who work in surrounding downtown Memphis hotels and businesses, a critical bounce back after the pandemic dominated 2020 and kept revenues down substantially.
"It was down pretty low, but now things seem to be moving back up now," Joe Yates at Wrapzody Deli said.
"The convention center actually having events where people can sit down next to each other, it's been great for us," Erin Robinson at Wrapzody Deli added.
This week's 'Autonomous Mobile Robots & Logistics Conference' is helping that cause. Alongside robots roaming exhibit hall floors, the event brought in more than 700 visitors.
That's one of the largest bookings since the completion of a $200 million renovation earlier this year.
"It's really great to see people out again able to get some sense of normalcy," Association of Advancing Automation President Jeff Burnstein said.
The conference organizer said he landed on the convention center as the host site after an in-person visit a few months ago.
"This is a beautifully renovated facility. You can see how well it lays out during this era of COVID," Burnstein said. "We can do a lot of social distancing, conference rooms are beautiful."
Kevin Kane - Memphis Touris President - said 80 convention center events are booked between now and next summer, with an estimated economic impact of around $25 million.
"It's a real opportunity for us to showcase, an opportunity that will hopefully fit the needs of many many groups that are looking for a place to be," Kane said.
More event bookings here means more revenue for tourism and downtown business owners, who eagerly welcome back guests following a slow 2020.
"Everybody that is here for a conference is from out of town. They all have to eat. They usually experience a little bit of Memphis while they are here," Kane added.
The upcoming convention center events are expected to add up to 36,000 hotel room nights, a big plus for hotel and hotel workers.