Elvis fans can now get a less-crowded tour of his former home. Graceland is reopening the estate at limited capacity after months of a coronavirus shutdown.
On a typical day, the King’s mansion entertains about 300 visitors per hour. Current coronavirus regulations cap that number at 80. There will also be temperature checks for guests, masked staff and new sanitization routines.
Graceland executive Joel Weinshanker says the international tourist destination—the second most visited home in America behind the White House—will operate at a loss for the foreseeable future, that is until people begin traveling in greater numbers.
“A lot of people aren’t going to be comfortable getting on planes,” he says. “I think the most safe someone is going to feel is getting in their car, and normally Graceland is 85 to 90 percent drive-destination anyway.”
Despite the financial implications, Weinshanker adds that fewer visitors, for now, let Elvis fans get a more intimate experience of his rock ‘n' roll legacy.
Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter visited the site last week and signed off on the safety protocols, convinced of planned social distancing measures being incorporated on tours.
Until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, Weinshanker doesn’t anticipate a strong tourism industry rebound.
In the next 12 months, if Graceland can attract close to half of its normal fan base of 600,000 visitors per year, Weinshanker says it’s a win.
“Not only would that be a good number for what I think Graceland has the potential to do in this situation, [but] what that would also mean is America is getting back,” he says. “Every day, week and month, I think we’re going to have new normals.”