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Memphis tourism hits record high since pre-pandemic in 2019

“You know that you’re somewhere special when you come here,” said John Doyle, Memphis Rock 'n Soul Museum Executive Director.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A lot has changed from the pandemic, but one good change is in Memphis tourism. .

To sum it up, Memphis is popping. For Memphis tourism, the pandemic wasn’t a setback. It was a come-up.

“We have eclipsed pre-pandemic levels. That is huge for us. 2019 was a record year before we went into COVID and the pandemic. We thought it would be 2023 maybe even 2024 before we got back to 2019 levels which was a record year for Memphis and Shelby County. We passed right by that in 2022,” said Kevin Kane, Memphis Tourism President.

Credit: Meka Wilson

More than 11 million people visited Memphis. Hotels had about six million room nights sold. That is 5% over the national average. 

“North of a billion dollars in tourism and infrastructure took place during the pandemic. Once people started traveling again, they came to a brand-new Renaissance C.nvention Center. They came to a beautiful concourse at Memphis International Airport,” said Kane. “We have so many outdoor activities.”

Memphis also had new restaurants, hotels, and people returning to popular sites like the Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum.

Credit: Meka Wilson
Credit: Meka Wilson

“Rock ‘n Soul became the first museum that reopened during the pandemic,” said John Doyle, Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum Executive Director. “The first thing that came back were road trips. People who were quarantined because of COVID…’We’ve got to get out…’ Memphis, because of its location, became a great city for that.”

That stands true for tourist, Lisa Edwards, and her friends. “Just passing through on our way to California in our RV, and it looked like a really cool place to stop,” said Edwards. “Love it so far. Just having a really good time and good food.”

Credit: Meka Wilson
Credit: Meka Wilson

“You know that you’re somewhere special when you come here,” said Doyle. “We want them to come back and really resonate with what the city is all about and what it is today, both as a legacy city and a futuristic city.”

Memphis is also seeing a lot of international tourists. Many of those tourists are from Europe and Australia. “Australia has become huge for Memphis. They even say that more people would be coming to Memphis, but they have a shortage of seats on planes,” said Doyle.

The goal now is to keep tourism growing.

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