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Annual SC tourism conference celebrates industry success with Gov. McMaster and previews 2024 marketing strategies

More than 350 tourism industry leaders from across the state gathered for the 59th annual South Carolina Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Travel on Hilton Head Island at the Westin Resort & Spa, February 12-14, 2024.


The annual tourism conference provides opportunities for knowledge sharing, networking, and celebrating industry accomplishments. To open the conference, Duane Parrish, director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT), previewed Discover South Carolina’s 2024 tourism marketing strategies and highlighted the impact the industry has on the state.


“Because of the hard work, dedication, innovation, and care that our industry professionals put in day in and day out, South Carolina’s hospitality and tourism industry continues to grow,” said Director Parrish. “As our industry grows and invests in our big cities and small towns, our quality of life improves, and the visitors we attract pump dollars into local economies and fuel countless businesses.”


Gov. Henry McMaster was in attendance to celebrate the success of the tourism industry and present annual awards.


“Tourism is a major industry for us, and the future looks great,” said Gov. McMaster. “We are in paradise. We have so much in terms of natural beauty, history, and climate. This is the perfect place for a vacation. There is no place like it on earth, and I want to thank you for recognizing that and sharing it with the world.”


The three-day conference included a slate of leading experts presenting on top trends and topics impacting the industry, from AI to Anthony Melchiorri, host and co-executive producer of Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible.


Gov. McMaster and Director Parrish also presented three coveted awards to distinguished honorees from South Carolina’s tourism industry:


2024 Governor’s Cup: RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing

  • This annual award recognizes outstanding practices in tourism promotion, marketing, and development and is given to an attraction, destination, or development that demonstrates extraordinary success in tourism, positively impacting our economy and quality of life.

  • Played over the Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island since 1969, the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing celebrated its 55th year in 2023. It gets better every year, with marketing initiatives that strategize not if, but when, the tickets will sell out. According to a 2019 Economic Impact Study, the RBC Heritage yielded $102 million for the state overall and encouraged more than 90% of tournament visitors to revisit Hilton Head Island.

2024 SCPRT Director’s Award: South Carolina Conservation Bank (SCCB)

  • This award is presented periodically to honor individuals or organizations whose efforts have substantially contributed to the SCPRT’s mission to foster sustainable tourism economic development and improve the quality of life for all South Carolinians.

  • Over the years, the SCCB has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the preservation of our state’s invaluable landscapes. From acquiring properties for new State Parks to expanding existing ones such as Paris Mountain, Jones Gap, Lee, and Kings Mountain State Parks, the SCCB has left an indelible mark on our state’s recreational spaces. Through these dedicated efforts, SCPRT can continue to ensure recreational opportunities for South Carolina residents and visitors, alike. The SCCB’s contributions have not only enriched the quality of life for our communities but have also created spaces for families and nature enthusiasts to connect with the outdoors.

SCPRT Service Award: The Sommers Family

  • This award was presented to Edletraud Sommer, Jens Sommer, and Sven Sommer. They have worked with SCPRT to engage South Carolina’s international, German-speaking tourism markets for 25+ years. As they retire at the end of the fiscal year, SCPRT is recognizing them with this award for their outstanding service in one of our top international markets. Among other important marketing wins, they helped SCPRT put South Carolina golf on the map for German-speaking markets.


The conference also celebrated other industry successes, including doubling admissions tax collections from golf, 10 years of the South Carolina Chef Ambassador program, and the unveiling of the 2024 Discover SC Vacation Guide.


The Governor’s Conference is the largest annual gathering of the state’s tourism industry created to celebrate industry accomplishments, hear from top industry speakers, and honor the innovative spirit of the people who fuel South Carolina tourism. Next year, the 60th annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Travel will be held in February in Spartanburg.

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