One of the most highly-anticipated celebrations has arrived in Memphis — and it’s expected to be grander than ever.
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Elvis Week 2017, a week-long celebration dedicated to The King of Rock and Roll, is expected to draw the largest number of visitors to Graceland – Presley’s Memphis mansion — ever, in part due to the 40th anniversary of his untimely death at the age of 42.
“In the 35 years of Graceland, 2017 by far is going to be the largest year of revenue … I want to say 25% better than any other year in the history of Graceland,” Joel Weinshanker, managing partner of Graceland Holdings LLC., told FOX Business.
The King’s home, purchased in 1957 for $102,500, still ranks as the number-one ticketed attraction in Memphis for out-of-town visitors. This year, Graceland features a slew of new additions – both inside the house and in the surrounding area – including a 450-room hotel and resort named The Guest House, which when completed in October 2016, was the largest hotel to open in the city in 90 years. At the beginning of this year, Graceland opened a $45 million entertainment complex called “Elvis Presley’s Memphis” that spans 200,000 square feet and features an exhibit of clothing worn on stage by the King, cars he owned, two restaurants, retail stores and a soundstage.
“You’re getting multiple generations of people coming. They’re staying longer because the hotel’s there. They’re staying longer because we have 1.5 million artifacts,” Weinshanker said, adding that with the expansion, which is the largest since the home-turned-museum opened in 1982, visitors are now able to view 10% more of Elvis’ memorabilia.
The new additions don’t only benefit the Presley estate, however. According to Weinshanker, nearly 400 jobs have been created as a result of the project, and with future expansion plans already in place, he aims to “double and triple that increase in the next two to three years.”
Additionally, this year’s Elvis Week is expected to bring a significant boost to the Memphis-area economy. Each year, the week-long tribute to Presley — who consistently ranks among the top dead celebrity earnings — typically provides a decent revenue bump to the city, as leisure visitors end up spending about $350 during their stay, according to the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau. On this year’s anniversary, the organization expects between 50-70 thousand visitors to make the pilgrimage to Memphis, a municipality of more than 650 million people.
“Most of them are here, especially the internationals, for three or four days, so it’s a pretty sizable impact,” Kevin Kane, president and CEO of the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau, told FOX Business. “If I was going to put a number, for the week, I’d say it’s probably in the $15 million range.”
Though the King’s estate now has a new hotel of its own, others in the area will profit as well. The Peabody Memphis, a luxury hotel which has ties to Presley — it being the site of his senior prom and the location where he signed his $5,500 RCA recording contract bonus — sells out its 464 rooms and suites at a quicker-than-normal rate.
“The demand is probably in the range of 20-25% higher on an anniversary like the 40th versus last year, so there is a much stronger demand,” Doug Browne, general manager of the Peabody Memphis, told FOX Business. “The demand comes earlier. So, whereas probably last year we were selling out three, four, five weeks prior to Elvis Week — we probably started with reservations six and seven months before.”
Regardless of where guests stay when visiting Memphis during Elvis Week, one thing is for certain: the legacy of Presley continues to live on, reaching many around the world. Transcending generations, the largest demographic visiting Graceland is now 28 to 35-year-old women, according to Weinshanker.
“Elvis personified the American Dream. He was what everyone in America wanted to be,” he said.