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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management


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

Tourism Business Incubator and Industry Training

Whether we're helping new businesses to grow and prosper, or helping existing businesses through industry training, the Center is dedicated to supporting and strengthening South Carolina tourism and hospitality.

Business Incubator: Turning Ideas into Reality

Do you plan on opening a new restaurant? Or do you want to develop a new travel app? Whatever your entrepreneurial plans, we can help. The SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development in alignment with USC / Columbia Technology Incubator is offering opportunities for entrepreneurs to turn their business ideas into a reality.

The USC / Columbia Technology Incubator is a nonprofit corporation that focuses on helping grow companies in the Columbia region. The corporation provides opportunities to produce successful businesses and create jobs within the community.

Currently, there are no existing incubators in South Carolina that focus solely on tourism and hospitality related businesses. The SmartState Center incubator will, therefore, be the only one of its kind in the state.

Tourism and hospitality start-ups can be expected to benefit enormously from support provided through this new venture. Successful completion of a business incubation program increases the likelihood that a start-up company will stay in business for the long term; historically, 87% of incubator graduates stay in business for more than five years, whereas approximately 40–50% of start-ups in the U.S. fail in their first five years of operation.

Accepted tourism entrepreneurs will be guaranteed fully funded office space (worth over $3,000) and crucial business development support for a two year period in which start-up companies will have the opportunity to learn and grow in a more stable environment. Companies will also have access to a wealth of knowledge from world-renowned tourism researchers in the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management.

Industry Training

Delivered in a half- or full-day format and tailored to your needs, these training courses can be designed for managers, front-line employees, or both. The SmartState team offers training in the following areas:

  • Customer Service Essentials
  • Marketing in Today's Digital Economy
  • Finance
  • Retailing Basics
  • Research Methods
  • Sustainability Analysis

All courses or workshops are interactive, fun and of great value to any organization in the service sector. The courses are customized to your needs. The Customer Service Essentials program, for example, is personally designed by Simon Hudson, Endowed Chair in the Center of Excellence for Tourism and Economic Development at the University of South Carolina. Author of six books including an upcoming text on customer service, Dr. Hudson has written a number of journal articles and case studies on customer service.

For front-line employees, the course offers key techniques for providing outstanding customer service. For managers, the workshop explains not only the theory behind the importance of customer service but also shows managers how to put this theory into practice. In essence, it is the 'whys' and 'hows' of customer service.