The pandemic’s blow to Greenwood’s tourism business has not been as severe as the city’s lead tourism official initially anticipated.

“It was scary. We were all kind of projecting where our losses would be. We were a little bit, ‘Sky is falling,’” Danielle Morgan, the executive director of the Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Greenwood Rotary Club Tuesday.

“But fortunately things haven’t been as bad as we thought.”

A barometer of the city’s tourism industry is the amount of revenue generated by the 1% additional sales tax at hotels and most restaurants, the proceeds of which are used to fund the CVB.

For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the tax receipts totaled $514,053, which was nearly 5% higher than the year before.

Morgan noted that a strong first half of the fiscal year occurred prior to the shutdowns that COVID-19 prompted beginning in mid-March. In addition, the downturn from reduced business and vacation travel and from restrictions on restaurant operations was less than expected, she said. The biggest decline in Greenwood’s tourism tax receipts occurred in May, when they were down 20%.

The better-than-anticipated result was due in large part to the efforts of residents in the area to support restaurants and other local businesses, according to Morgan. Tourists also have seemed more comfortable traveling to smaller locales during the pandemic, and particularly ones to which they can drive, she said.

“They feel a little safer here because we don’t have a huge population. They can kind of get away, but they feel pretty good about it.”

The filming in Greenwood of the first installment of an ABC TV series on women of the civil rights movement should get 2021 off to a good start, Morgan predicted

“Women of the Movement” is scheduled to start filming Monday. Production crews have been in town for several weeks erecting sets and making other advance arrangements. Morgan said she expects the project to continue through April.

The first season of the show will include six episodes exploring the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till and the resulting activism of his mother, Mamie Till Mobley.

Emmett Till, a Black 14-year-old from Chicago, was tortured and killed after whistling at a white woman at Bryant Grocery and Meat Market in Money. The murder and the subsequent acquittal by an all-white, all-male jury of the two white men responsible are credited with galvanizing the civil rights movement.

Morgan, who also acts as a local liaison to the Mississippi Film Office, said the effort to lure the multimillion-dollar production began in May. Most of the production team is based in Nashville, and Tennessee “aggressively tried to steal it away,” she said.

But the authenticity of filming near where the historic crime occurred plus the hospitality received here by those who scouted the site carried the day, Morgan believes.

“I think as we started looking at locations, they realized you can’t film the Delta in Tennessee,” she said.

Although the majority of the filming will occur in Leflore County, there are plans to shoot for a couple of weeks in Memphis as well.

One of the more unusual requests Morgan has fielded so far from the producers was their desire to purchase an acre of cotton. Once Morgan schooled them on how much fiber that would be, they ended up buying a quarter-acre, which they harvested by hand to recreate historically accurate cotton bales.

Morgan believes that if the production of the Till series goes well, subsequent seasons planned for “Women of the Movement” could be filmed in Greenwood, too.

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

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