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VOL. 10 | NO. 27 | Saturday, July 1, 2017

Editorial: Memphis Tourism Has Its Own Unique Ride

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Memphis is never, ever going to be a theme park built for the delight of visitors from around the world.

Memphis tourism is increasingly about exploration and personal experiences that tell someone on a journey a few things about themselves as well as this city by the river.

You could argue that’s where tourism in general has been going for quite some time – the trek, the pilgrimage, the quest.

And the ultimate test of that concept is coming in less than a year when Memphis marks what has been described broadly as the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

April of 2018 will also mark 50 years since the sanitation workers strike that brought King to Memphis and the city into the frame of the national view of the civil rights movement.

All of that is, we submit, the proper context for the anniversary and its observance.

The Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau’s recent annual meeting in Whitehaven included Charles McKinney of Rhodes College, who didn’t speak a word about turnstile counts or how many times a tourism dollar turns over in the Memphis economy. Neither did film producer Craig Brewer.

Instead, each talked about the city’s historic struggle, which, it turns out, is America’s struggle and America’s aspiration. It won’t do loops several times over before returning you to the point where you started, with attendants to unstrap you from your seat to go wait in another line.

That might not seem like the kind of thing you would put in a tourism brochure.

Certainly when the concept of a National Civil Rights Museum at the site of King’s assassination was debated in the late 1980s, some Memphis City Council members who had served on the body in 1968 wondered who would ever visit it.

They were unaware that visitors had been journeying to the increasingly worn and patched Lorraine Motel since April 1968. Those visitors were finding the shell of what was left of Stax Records and peering through chain link fences at a Beale Street ghost town. They were making their way to the river’s edge, even taking the perilous walk on the cobblestones to get to the muddy water, and asking the way to Al Green’s church.

We’ve worked increasingly in recent years to make it easier for them to get to places they already want to see. And we have a lot of work to do in that specific area.

The most critical element is a public transportation system that works not only for our visitors but for us. It’s possible to do both. Yes, the places Memphians go still tend to differ from the places tourists go – but that, too, is changing.

Explore Memphis and you just may find yourself in the city you call home.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 20 39 190
BUILDING PERMITS 0 305 3,056
BANKRUPTCIES 17 135 753
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 53 329
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0