Elvis death anniversary and new film fuel tourism in star's birthplace

Forty-five years after singer's death, international fans travel to Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Mississippi

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The Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo, Mississippi, in the US is welcoming an increasing number of visitors, as fans commemorated the 45th anniversary of the singer's death on Tuesday.

And a new film has awakened international interest in the star: Baz Luhrmann's Elvis has become a global hit.

“It really picked up the first of April with steady increases and then when the film came out, it really picked up,” the Birthplace's executive director Roy Turner said.

Mr Turner was named executive director of the site last autumn after long-time leader Dick Guyton retired.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported Mr Turner's biggest challenge is getting visitors to return to Tupelo's top attraction amid the pandemic.

With international tourists typically making up 60 per cent of visitors, the movie about the king of rock 'n roll couldn't have been released at a better time. The birthplace has had more visitors this year than in the past two.

It was only last November that a busload of visitors became the first international tour group at the site since January 2020.

“They’re coming from all over the world,” Mr Turner said.

He said about 20 people from Belgium visited the Birthplace on August 9, spending most of the day there. About 35 bus tours were expected in a little more than two weeks. Mr Turner said those numbers are approaching pre-Covid levels.

Before the pandemic, the Birthplace welcomed about 60,000 visitors a year.

Presley died on August 16, 1977, at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee — about 151 kilometres from the Tupelo site. Mr Turner said tourism at the Birthplace typically increases “in those five-year increments” of the anniversary of the death.

Mr Turner said he’s happy to see more visitors, including younger ones.

“We’ve seen a lot of young people show an interest in Elvis,” he said. “Another interesting thing is that there are more African-American visitors as well, because the movie told more of Elvis’s connection to the African-American community.”

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AP contributed to this report

Updated: August 17, 2022, 1:38 PM