By JACK WEATHERLY
Cleveland will be turning a page in its hospitality handbook to a chapter titled hosting.
The Grammy Museum Mississippi, which opened its doors on Saturday, is expected to attract 30,000 visitors in the first year.
That figure, adapted from a study on the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, projected a direct and indirect impact of up to $20 million a year on the community, according to Judson Thigpen, executive director of-/ the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce.
The Grammy Museum has a broader interest than the King museum, which, of course, has solely a blues focus, whereas the new Cleveland museum addresses more genres, Thigpen noted.
For example, the Beatles exhibit and symposium will be open to the public April 1-2, he said.
Meantime, “we’ve formed alliances, and we’ll be forming more alliances,” he said. “We’ve been in touch with the Elvis Presley people, so we can do some cross-marketing.”
The museum joins a growing network that includes the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, the King museum and the Blues Trail.
“The more attractions we have in the Delta, the longer people will stay,” he said.
“We’re working this as a Delta project. It’s great that it’s in Cleveland, and we’re proud as the dickens about it. But it’s a Delta and state project.
The museum received about $12 million from the state, Bolivar County and Cleveland. The rest of the nearly $20 million came from private donations.
Several hoteliers had contacted the city about establishing lodging there, according to Thigpen.
And one announced on the day of the museum’s grand opening a boutique hotel designed for guests from across the region and the world.
Suresh Chawla, president of Greenwood-based Chawla Hotels Inc., revealed that The Lyric is expected to open in April 2017.
Meantime, several cottages are applying for bed-and-breakfast licensing from the city to offer lodging through the international Airbnb organization.
The city’s 340 motel rooms “fill up real quick” when Delta State has a home game or there are events of wide interest, Thigpen said.
A few more restaurants are applying for liquor licenses, according to Thigpen.
Thigpen says he thinks the city is ready for the influx in terms of public safety and infrastructure. But dealing with people from different cultures is a challenge.
The area has attracted Asians and Europeans for the past few years because of the Blues Trail.
“A lot of Europeans like to eat late at night,” for example. “so restaurants need to be attuned to that, Thigpen said.
Some visitors will far en0ugh away to think about air travel.
Pat Kerr Tigrett, a Memphis-based clothes designer who founded the Blues Ball in that city in 1993, was on hand at the museum opening.
She said in an interview that there will be a need for air service for Cleveland.
The Cleveland Municipal Airport is not certified for regular scheduled air service, said its director Clinton Johnson.
He said that there were conversations “about a year ago” with Memphis-based Southern Express Airways for charter flights, but that “nothing is in the works yet.”
A call to Southern Airways was not returned.
Boutique Air, which provides limited service to Greenville through a federal subsidy program, said via email that it had no plans as of now to do so for Cleveland.
A scheduled air service would require a major outlay of money to bring it up to the Federal Aviation Administration’s standards, Johnson said.
“Who knows?” Johnson said of such a service. “Maybe a year from now.”
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