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Pre-Sales Begin for American Queen Cruises

September 21, 2011

A model of the American Queen steamboat

With pre-sales beginning today for Great American Steamboat Company cruises, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and representatives from the Riverfront Development Corporation, the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Greater Memphis Chamber, and U.S Congressman Steve Cohen’s office got their first chance to meet the company’s local employees.

“This is not just about recreation,” said Mayor Wharton. “This is a project we did not announce very long ago and people are already on the job, working. I think that gives people hope.”

The mayor and others met with the company’s new booking agents, currently working on online reservations and pre-sales through travel agents.

The Grat American Steamboat Company will hire about 300 people, including a crew of 200 or so, in its first phase and 60 percent of them will be hired from Memphis.

“We had no idea how easy it would be [to hire Memphians]. You have a hospitality legacy here,” said GASC CEO Jeff Krida. “We’re in the happiness business. We’re focused on finding happy, nice people whose mommas raised them right.”

Mayor Wharton cited the synergy between the company and the assets Memphis has already developed.

“We are building on who we are. We are Memphis, Tennessee, one of this country’s greatest river cities,” said Mayor Wharton. “The Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality is already here. We don’t have to build it.”

Others spoke of the overall effect the company will have on Memphis’ economy.

“We’re redefining the South,” said Greater Memphis Chamber president John Moore. “I think in a few years you’ll hear people say, ‘we need to be more like Memphis. The way they work together as a team, the way they serve the customer … That’s helping them win.'”

GASC began marketing the  cruises, set to leave from Memphis beginning mid-April, earlier this week. On Monday, they had 4,600 visitors to their website.

“Last year, people said that all the riverboats are gone. Why are you building a dock to accomodate boats that will never be there again?” said Benny Lendermon, president of the Riverfront Development Corporation. “Now the largest steamboat ever constructed will be docked and the company headquartered here in Memphis.”

The American Queen is still undergoing a $5 million renovation in Louisiana, but the mayor and others were able to view a replica of the vessel with working lights, deck pool, and tiny shuffleboard courts.

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