Photo Credit: Courtesy: Tour of Possibilities
How This Black History Tour Company In Memphis Is Shifting Gears Amid Pandemic
Carolyn Michael-Banks is the owner of Memphis driving tour company, A Tour of Possibilities (ATOP), which showcases the historical and cultural impact Black Memphians had on music, sports, politics, education, and more.
The tour is a unique way to discover the Black history that you don’t necessarily hear about such as the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, the Elmwood Cemetery, and Robert Church Park.
“I want to give people a chance to hear the stories they might not [have] heard before,” Michael-Banks said. “My desire is once you hear the story, you now have the capacity to make a difference because you now know better.”
But like so many businesses in the tourism sector, Michael-Banks had to find a creative way to serve her customers after COVID-19 forced her to suspend her popular grand and overview tours.
The grand tour is a private and customizable tour that requires a minimum of a two-hour tour. The overview tour is for two-hours that is offered twice daily on select days. Michael-Banks would offer the tour in her caravan and up to 10 guests could ride in ATOP’s van.
To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Michael-Banks operates the two-and-a-half-hour caravan tours twice a day every day except Mondays and customers follow the ATOP van from their own vehicles. They are able to hear Michael-Banks or ATOP guide Jackie Murray through Bluetooth or auxiliary input through the vehicle’s stereo.
Each vehicle in the caravan also needs a smart device (phone or tablet) and the Zoom app. The caravan tour is $45 per person for ages 5 to 99.
Micheal-Banks told BizJournals that she plans to launch an audio tour in mid-September and hopes to start a virtual tour by November. The audio tour is designed to have guests tour the city at their leisure from their own vehicle.
“This tour is not designed to be a stop-gap due to the pandemic. This will remain part of my tour offerings,” Michael-Banks said. “This tour can be experienced by anyone around the world […] and it could also motivate some who never thought of coming to Memphis to come. Memphis has so much to offer.”