Skip to Content

College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

The Richardson Family SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development

Project Outcomes

People often suggest that despite the proliferation of research in universities, the exchange of knowledge from academic research to practical application is poor. The argument made is that academic research seldom influences the real world of practice. However, we beg to differ. Below, we have highlighted some of the achievements of the SmartState research center, where private and public sectors have joined together in an effort to support applied and commercially relevant research. 

Research Project Outcomes Reports

Evaluation of the Effectiveness of the Usage of the Hospitality Tax in Columbia SC (September 2015)
The City of Columbia has been collecting and allocating hospitality tax (H-Tax) dollars for over a decade. Hospitality tax dollars are generated by a 2% tax on prepared food and beverages sold in the city and collections are used to promote tourism to help attract visitors to the region with the goal of increasing the region’s economic base. The City Council has established an eleven-member Hospitality Tax Advisory Committee that reviews all applications and forwards recommendations to City Council, and in 2015 that committee requested that the SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development serve as an impartial, external body to evaluate the effectiveness of the process.

Evaluation of the Development of Front Street Village , Beaufort, NC (November 2014)
The primary objective of this project was to identify the key factors for success and failure attributable to becoming a leading (or losing) destination. To achieve this objective, the research team first studied comparable destinations and waterways domestically and internationally through personal visits and content analysis of existing written documents and literature. In addition, past and current waterway projects were analyzed to glean essential indicators of success and failure in similar ventures. The team also identified existing resources and strengths in the Beaufort region and explored potential tourism products and packages that would complement existing businesses and help attract tourists to Front Street Village (FSV). Finally, the research team conducted an extensive review of the current and future consumer trends in tourism in the U.S. and in major potential market source regions for FSV.

Santee-Cooper: An Assessment of the Potential Demand for Tourism on the Santee Cooper Waterway (December 2014)
This feasibility study represents a comprehensive  analysis of potential tourism development along the Santee- Cooper waterway. The study  looks  at tourism  development along both Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie and the connecting waterways, exploring the potential for establishing an active water corridor linkage between Columbia to the North Charleston and Charleston. This outcome report examines the feasibility of the development of potential sustainable tourism products (hiking trails, water sports, restaurants, cafes, etc.)  that can be developed along the Santee Cooper Waterway and the surrounding region and looks at the potential economic impact of such development.

Brand Assessment and Development of Bluffton, SC (November 2013)
A branding study conducted by Rawle Murdy, the SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development at the University of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

Increasing Tourism in 10 Economically Distressed Counties in South Carolina (August 2013)
The Pee Dee is composed of 10 counties (Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Lee, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg) and contains the coastal and inland regions of South Carolina’s northeastern corner. The region’s beaches stretch from the North Carolina state line to the Winyah Bay in Georgetown County and include the world famous Grand Strand. On the coast, the area is predominantly involved in tourism and resorts with beaches, amusement parks, shopping, fishing, and golf. The area has become a popular retirement location in the U.S., in part because of its low cost of living and its many golf courses. The inland of the region is anchored by Florence, located at the lower watershed of the Pee Dee River. The river is named after the Pee Dee Native American tribe. Inland is a belt featuring rivers, marshes, carolina bays and sandy rises where forestry is predominant, with pine plantations and bald cypress timbering. Further inland, on higher ground, is an agricultural belt of tobacco, cotton, soybeans and produce. The Pee Dee has a population of about 729,449 and Table 1 shows the different counties of the Pee Dee with their respective populations.

Customer Communications Management in the New Digital Era (January 2012)
The world today is increasingly digital. At work, home, and play, people are constantly connected through the internet via a variety of devices and networks. This digital connectivity raises new opportunities--and challenges--for organizations striving to manage their customer communications to create customer and brand value. While marketers now have more means than ever to reach, engage with, and influence customers, knowledge of and expertise in managing these data-intensive tools is essential for success. In this discussion paper we explore the new digital era of marketing communications, an era dominated by mobile information and social media accessibility. We describe how marketers can leverage various social media platforms and services to touch customers at various stages of the buying process. The importance of brand community building, in particular via digital tools, is then examined. We also describe the significance of emotions in marketing, and how emotional appeals are increasingly employed, both on- and off-line, to drive loyalty and build relationships. We conclude with insights on managing customer communications in the new digital era.

The Effects of Social Media on Brand-Customer Relationships (August 2012)
Consumers are increasingly spending more time on the internet. At work, home, and when mobile they have continual opportunity to connect with people, organizations, and with brands. Social media platforms are emerging as a dominant digital communication channel via which consumers learn about, share information on, and interact with brands they consider, purchase, and evaluate. Those companies that do engage with consumers on a consistent basis using social medial are finding that such engagement can be used to reinforce brand strength and durability, and evidence is beginning to emerge that companies can achieve positive returns on their social media investments1. However, such evidence is scarce, and more research is needed to guide marketers in a digital world. Most of the research about social media deals with small behavioral questions about online behavior and, even then, the work is often quickly outdated. Research on a deeper level, exploring consumer responses to social media is needed.

A Feasibility Study for an International Horse Park in Aiken, South Carolina (August 2012)
This feasibility study involved an extensive assessment of the economic, social and environmental impacts of a proposed multi-use international horse park in Aiken County. Multi-stage, mixed research methods were employed, including an industry analysis, site visits to existing horse parks, interviews with leading industry professionals, focus groups and in-depth interviews with local stakeholders, and surveys of Aiken residents and potential visitors.

Scoping Opportunities to Grow Tourism in the Pee Dee Region of South Carolina (December 2011)
Drive tourism in the U.S. is both enormous and complex, and it forms the backbone of domestic tourism in the country. Rural tourism, in particular, is heavily dependent on drive tourism, and rural and regional areas around the world are increasingly recognizing self-drive tourists as one of their most important markets. But drive tourists are not necessarily an “easy” market to attract, and maintaining effective collaboration among geographically dispersed, small and micro tourism businesses is notoriously difficult. This study looked at the rural Pee Dee region of South Carolina and its potential to capitalize on the hundreds of thousands of drive tourists that come through every year on their way to coastal destinations such as Myrtle Beach and Charleston.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.