Memphis tourism on the rise

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Bluff City is getting some big-time attention in the New York Times over marked increases in tourism in recent years.

We live here year-round, so in some ways, we might not see all that Memphis has to offer.

Tourists we talked with said it's no surprise Memphis is getting national attention.

Beale Street and Graceland are spots on the bucket list for Larry and Teresa Watts in from South Carolina.

The pair is staying for five days and had no idea the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest was this weekend either. For them, it's an added treat

"We're not here for the BBQ but we are going to it, we know it's here we are going to it," Watts said.

Memphis always has its share of tourists from near and far, but if you feel like you're seeing more these days, you're right.

According to the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, tourism is up 13 percent –  that's 1.3 million people from 2012 to 2017 with a 4 percent uptick just from 2016 to 2017.

"This is my first time being here and I've heard things about Memphis, so I really wanted to check it out," said Wanda Vernon-Collier from Indianapolis.

The stats are featured in a New York Times article published Friday, which highlights how some blighted areas have been transformed in recent years like Loflin Yard and Old Dominick Distillery in Downtown Memphis, the Broad Avenue Arts District off Sam Cooper, and most recently the dramatic re-birth of Crosstown Concourse.

The article drew the attention of Mayor Jim Strickland who tweeted the city has momentum.

"Coming from Chicago, it's a rhythm and blues city, but here it's so much better," said Phillip Winters.

So, what's working for Memphis?

Visitors said it's a number of things like friendly people, relatively low costs, and a wide variety of historically and culturally significant sites.

The smell of barbecue, at least for this week, doesn't hurt either.

"You know what you guys do right, you treat people the way you expect to be treated, southern hospitality goes for so much, the prices are so well, nothing here is extremely expensive and the simple fact is just good people," Winters said.

The Times also quoted a commercial real estate company as saying the city has seen $13 billion in investment in 250 revitalization projects in the past four years

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