The Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau is open to the public Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s at 399 East Main St. The phone number is (662) 841-6521.
TUPELO - Members of Tupelo's tourism industry on Tuesday got in touch with their inner Elvis at the grand opening of the Tupelo Convention amp& Visitors Bureau in downtown Tupelo.
Hoteliers, retailers, restaurant owners, city officials and others took turns donning Elvis sunglasses and having their pictures taken inside a pink Cadillac parked inside the new visitors center on East Main Street.
They also watched the premiere of a music video about Elvis' time in Tupelo, set to Elton John's song "Porch Swing in Tupelo."
And attendees witnessed the unveiling of a large portrait of Elvis that now graces one of the 221/2-foot-tall walls in the visitors center.
The visitors center, which doubles as the CVB's lobby, was added as part of a $1.5 million remodeling project started in January 2008. It doubled the size of the old CVB building at East Main and Elizabeth streets.
The CVB staff moved into the revamped building in September, but waited to have an open house and grand opening as part of Mississippi Tourism Week and National Travel and Tourism Week.
As part of Mississippi Tourism Week, Gov. Haley Barbour on Tuesday unveiled new highway welcome signs in Jackson that highlight the state's new tourism marketing message - "Birthplace of America's Music."
A strong musical heritage already is making money for Tupelo. CVB Executive Director Linda Butler-Johnson and her board members said Elvis and other tourism activities have a $52 million annual economic impact in Lee County.
Jeff Snyder, vice chairman of the CVB board of directors and general manager of The Mall at Barnes Crossing, added that tourism creates about 3,600 jobs in Lee County.
"Tupelo tourism is big business," he said. "Other cities know it's big business so competition is tough."
Tupelo so far has been holding its own. Earlier this month, the CVB reported tourism sales tax revenues for April were up 21.89 percent from the previous year.
Overall, the CVB is up 8.22 percent for the year. It budgeted for a growth of 3 percent.
And Chauncey Godwin, CVB board member and owner of Heavenly Ham, said he hopes the new visitors center will spur more growth.
"We're looking at this as a way to showcase Tupelo," he said. "We're hoping that locals and everyone who comes to town will come through here."
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or email@example.com.