Memphis Tour Service Includes MS Blues Museum
By Connie White - Clarksdale, MS Press Register - April 23, 1980
Back in 1960 when John F. Kennedy ran for President, his platform called for a "New Frontier."
Ernie Lubiani, of Memphis, believes In new frontiers too, but his subject is tourism not politics — and his "New Frontier" is Clarksdale. Lubiani lived in Clarksdale when he was a small boy, his parents moved to Memphis, but he still has relatives here. He read about the Carnegie Public Library's Delta Blues Museum in a newspaper and decided to come down and look it over.
Lubiani minces no words in expressing his feelings about the museum, located at the Myrtle Hall Branch of the library system. "What you have here is probably the best idea I've ever seen for this community," Lubiani said.
And Lubiani knows a good tourism idea when he sees it. Lubiani had a degree in restaurant and motel management when he decided to return to Memphis State to study tourism. He has a degree from the university In that subject, the first tourism degree the school ever awarded. After graduation, Lubiani founded Hospitality Services, a Memphis tour service, that handles the most popular Elvis Presley tours.
"Elvis Presley's death awakened the world to what is in this area," he said. Lubiani said that since Presley's death three million people have visited Memphis and those people have spent $385 million. "That's new money," he said. "It' didn't exist in the community before." Lubiani is planning to bring some of that "new money" to Clarksdale. He was in town last week to take a look at the items that will be displayed in the blues museum's first big exhibition May 15. The items were collected by Don Nix, a Memphis record producer, and the library staff.
In the next two months, Lubiani will be putting together a tour package linking the Delta Blues Museum to tours starting in Memphis. The local Chamber of Commerce is providing figures for Lubiani on the price of meals and hotel rooms for the tourists.
Lubiani is hoping to bring many European tourists to the Memphis/Clarksdale area. He says that this type of tourist has been to New York and Washington D.C. and is looking for more of America to see. The draw of Elvis Presley may at-tract that tourist to the Memphis area, and any music lover would want to see the "birthplace of the blues."
The impact of tourist dollars could mean a new avenue of income for the city, especially needed in this time of economic instability. "Every dollar spent in Clarksdale is going to turn over two and a half times," Lubiani said. And the incoming tourists will provide a bonanza for fast food stores, restaurants, motels, and something Clarksdale hasn't had much of — souvenir shops.
Lubiani would like to see each bus load of tourists spend as much time as possible in Clarksdale. "The more days they spend in town the more dollars they will spend," he said. "They'll walk around downtown and shop, buy souvenirs." "The smallest amount spent would probably be $400," Lubiani said. "That's if a tour just stopped in town for lunch, and it's just one tour." Lubiani said the incoming European tourists would probably require interpreters and local people with talent in various languages could find a place for added income.
He said the tourists might cause local Clarksdale folks to become more interested in the blues tradition. "They're more knowledgeable in the blues than we are," he said. "They'll tell you about Muddy Waters and W.C. Handy." "You don't realize the value of what you have in the Delta Blues Museum," Lubiani said. "People can have a little more self-pride, stand a little taller."
"Nashville may have country music," Lubiani said, "but we've got the blues."