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The local tourism industry typically brings in nearly $4 billion annually to Memphis, according to Memphis Tourism officials. However, COVID-19 has battered the industry.

“This is really a response to multiple things,” Carpenter said. “But on the business side, the tourism industry is really just a huge contributor to our financial [health]. When that got cut as it did with the hotels, it affects people’s jobs, [and] revenue and taxes.”

The initiative — marketed through the website — aims to be the primary resource for residents or visitors who want to venture out into the Memphis outdoors.

“We think we have a great outdoor recreational package that a lot of people aren’t aware of,” Kane said. “We know that resonates very strongly with travelers in this [pandemic] environment. … Having a robust outdoors scene adds to our music, culture, and culinary offerings for visitors.”

Memphis Tourism’s research and data showed regional travelers were more interested to travel and discover new outdoor destinations now.

Memphis River Parks Partnership spearheaded an initial roundtable discussion in June. A plan was shared with leaders that represented parks, biking, tourism, and other local outdoor sectors.

Although not disclosing the exact dollar amount, Carpenter said funding for the Discover Memphis Naturally campaign has reached six figures. Initial contributions have come from nearly dozen sources, including Memphis Tourism; the City of West Memphis; city parks; the Downtown Memphis Commission; Big River Crossing; Mighty Lights; Explore Bike Share, and Memphis River Parks.

The largest contribution came from Memphis Tourism. Kane said they received $2.3 million from federal CARES Act funds via the Tennessee Department of Tourism. Those funds must all be used by the end of the year. Between $600,000 to $700,000 has gone help with the Discover Memphis Naturally campaign, Kane said.

While the promotion of outdoor recreation won’t cure what the pandemic has done to the hospitality industry, Carpenter is thinks the Discover Memphis Naturally campaign could have some lasting economic benefits.

“Because the interest in outdoor activities is so high now, we will create a lot more connections to it,” Carpenter said. “When things resolve or people start traveling again, we will have another robust thing to market. The more we elevate the assets of the city, the more opportunity we have to be compelling to folks that think about relocation.

I think long term it has a potential to impact the city’s ability to recruit new businesses because we have a lot of stuff to do outdoors,” he continued.


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