MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Music, barbecue, and southern hospitality has moved Memphis to the top of "tourist destinations on the rise". Even our infamous crime problem doesn't seem to be curbing the enthusiasm.
A recent poll conducted by the world's largest travel website, Trip Advisor, revealed tourists rank Memphis as America's second most preferred city to visit; Austin, Texas ranked first.
Locals may not believe Memphis is a great tourist destination because of all the crime, but believe it. According to Trip Advisor the National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studio, and the Memphis Zoo, among other attractions, are drawing huge crowds for the Bluff City.
"It's just a lot of history and a lot of music," said tourist Jan Stidd. “I love Memphis barbecue too!”
"All the restaurants, great food, and good people, it's been fun,” said another tourist, Sandy Littleford.
So much fun Memphis won the "Traveler's Choice 2012" Award. Trip Advisor recently ranked Memphis as the number two destination on the rise. The site receives more than 60 million hits a month. It's a place where people leave reviews about their travels and help others plan their trips.
"Memphis has really keyed on tourism. I think it's the third biggest industry in Memphis behind transportation and medicine," said Jimmy Ogle from the Riverfront Development Corporation.
The city has invested millions to attract tourists, like sprucing up Elvis Presley Boulevard at the cost of $43 million.
"Tourism is a major employer and the more we can grow it the better off our citizens are going to be,” said Mayor A C Wharton last week during the Elvis Presley Boulevard improvement project ground breaking ceremony.
Graceland is the 2nd most visited home in the country. Beale Street is a big money maker too. Sun Studio, the birth place of rock and roll, is one of the top choices for tourists and it draws visitors from all over the world.
"If you're into music at all or history it's a really good place to visit,” said Sun Studio spokesperson Marla Stone. “A lot of people got their start here. We got a lot of blues artists that Sam (Phillips) started out recording in the early 50's like B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf and he (Sam) is the first person to record Elvis Presley."
Memphis is also a well known hoops Mecca and currently enjoying unprecedented success at the top of the NBA. The Grizzlies recently beat the World Champion Miami Heat, Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City, the previously undefeated New York Knicks, and Charlotte, all in one week.
"It was really neat to see the national attention and the respect we're getting finally and now we have the best record,” said Ogle.
On the flip side Memphis has the highest airfares in the U.S. and Forbes Magazine recently ranked Memphis as one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Violent crime fell by 10-percent last year, but the rate is still 5 times the national average.
Despite that people keep coming and more plans are in the works to make sure it stays that way.
“There's $300 million worth of development on the riverfront right now and that is going to make it look different for tourists in 3 to 5 years so I think it's only going to get bigger and better,” Ogle told ABC24 News.
Other things that will help boost tourism: Beale Street Landing and the Pyramid Bass Pro Shop will open next year. The Harahan Bridge green line and the Elvis Presley Boulevard improvement project are scheduled to be completed in the next few years.