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Memphis aims to turn heads in Australia and New Zealand with the help of the late legend Elvis Presley.
The Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau has opened an office in the Land Down Under in a bid to gin up more foreign travel to the Home of the Blues.
The $100,000-a-year effort, spearheaded by former Tourism Australia representative Chris Ingram, comes as the bureau tries to boost the Memphis brand in Australia and New
Zealand, neighboring English-speaking nations which together rank as the No. 3 source of international visitors to Memphis.
Rounding out the top 5 are No. 1 Canada, No. 2 United Kingdom, No. 4 Germany and a somewhat surprising newcomer, Brazil, at No. 5, bureau chief marketing officer Regena
The office opening in Auckland, New Zealand, came amid plans for “Elvis: The Wonder of You,” a touring show with Elvis appearing on big screen and a full symphony playing live
in May and June.
“I know this is going to sound like a tourism cliché, but we are so fortunate that Elvis Presley lived in Memphis and loved Memphis,” Bearden said. “It’s still bringing us opportunities
all the time with exhibits like this.”
“Australia has been just growing at Graceland, which is one of the easiest and first places to look for international visitors,” Bearden said. “It’s emerged as the third-largest ticket
buyer from the international market at Graceland.”
The bureau has operated offices in Japan, England and other European nations for years under partnerships with other agencies including Tennessee, Mississippi and New
Orleans. “Representation and partnerships have existed for Memphis tourism in Europe for 25 years resulting in Memphis as one of the premier and most visited destinations in the
southern U.S.,” bureau president Kevin Kane said.
The bureau decided to add an Australia-New Zealand presence based on confidential data gleaned from Graceland ticket sales and bookings by tour operators and travel
wholesalers. Bearden said the budget includes staff, attendance at travel trade shows and expenses related to familiarization tours for journalists visiting Memphis.
“When the growth starts to happen without you, it’s our job to go, ‘Wait a minute. If we get more proactive, we can grow these numbers,’” Bearden said.
“Kind of surprising to us a little bit is Brazil,” Bearden said. “Brazil is starting to really show up in a lot of destinations in Memphis and is the fifth strongest ticket buyer at Graceland.”
While the Brazilian surge likely stems from the country’s rise as a global economic power, it might also have an Elvis connection. “Graceland had a big exhibit there a couple years
ago. We did a lot of proactive marketing with that,” Bearden said.
Bearden said officials weren’t sure how many of the city’s 11.5 million tourists last year were from out of the country, but they believe it was substantial. The last estimate in 2010
was 16 percent.
Industry data suggest international tourists booked 450,000 nights in Memphis hotel rooms in 2016, Bearden said. That was 8.4 percent of total room nights.
The bureau figures international visitors because they stay longer, 3 to 4 days on average, and spend more money than U.S. residents visiting the city. International visitors
typically stay 14-17 nights in the U.S. and travel to multiple cities across a region.
“The pattern here is they do Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans,” Bearden said.
Other Top 10 sources of tourists include France, Scandinavia, Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg and Japan, Bearden said. China is growing but not in the top 10 yet.
|G'DAY ELVIS! MEMPHIS AIMS FOR MORE AUSSIE TOURISTS
February 14, 2017 - The Commercial Appeal / Elvis Express Radio