Explore Charleston - Program of Work 2023-24

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A LETTER FROM THE BOARD CHAIRMAN ..........................................................................1

BUREAU OVERVIEW...............................................................................................................2

TOURISM IMPACT....................................................................................................................3


TRAVEL COUNCIL.....................................................................................................................6

EDUCATION, TRAINING & OPPORTUNITIES ......................................................................8-9


EDITORIAL COMMENTARY................................................................................................12-13

MARKETING DEPARTMENT .............................................................................................14-19

COMMUNICATIONS & MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT ............................................20-21

SALES DEPARTMENT.......................................................................................................22-25

SPOTLIGHT MARKETS.....................................................................................................26-27

VISITOR SERVICES DEPARTMENT .................................................................................28-29

OFFICIAL PUBLICATIONS .....................................................................................................30

MUNICIPALITIES ....................................................................................................................32

ACCOMMODATIONS TAXES .................................................................................................33

AUXILIARY ORGANIZATIONS................................................................................................34

We recently received the strongest tourism economic impact report in our region’s history and enter the new fiscal year with incredible momentum. Recalling the seemingly insurmountable challenges we faced only three years ago makes the industry’s performance all the more impressive. Thanks to the fortitude of industry partners and the welcoming spirit of our community, travel and hospitality generated a record-high impact of $12.82 billion for the Greater Charleston Area. Over 51,000 residents, more than ever before, now work in the industry. Almost one quarter of all sales in the region are attributable to tourism.

Travel and hospitality are vital to our community's identity and economy, and quality of life for local residents is critical to tourism's success. The outcomes realized in the last year reinforce the importance of remaining laser-focused on destination promotion efforts that create the highest value visit and maximize downstream benefits for the community and its long-term reputation, not encouraging mass visitation.

The mission of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (Explore Charleston) is to unify and lead the local travel industry in marketing the Charleston area as an individual, meeting, incentive and group destination to both the domestic and international markets.

This Program of Work for fiscal year 2023-2024 provides an overview of Explore Charleston initiatives in destination marketing and management. Our efforts have real-time impacts and are an investment in the future. Woven into our plan is a deep sense of responsibility to protect what makes this place so special while ensuring the viability of the tourism industry and its far-reaching benefits for our regional economy.


We never lose sight that this is a hyper-competitive industry. While we were blessed with a faster and more robust pandemic recovery than many markets, the landscape this year is vastly different. In the last 12 months, more destinations fully reopened and international tourism regained momentum. We are dedicated to ensuring our destination is inclusive and remains relevant to leisure, business and group travelers genuinely interested in the area’s diverse attributes.

Thanks to the power of connections, I have every confidence we are well positioned to maintain our track record of success. Travelers seek destinations that offer meaningful and authentic connections to people and place. Collective efforts between our members, civic leaders and residents are grounded in deep connections to the iconic destination we call home. There is no more significant foundation from which to usher in a new year for our industry.


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Explore Charleston 375 MEETING STREET


The Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, or Explore Charleston, is organized as a 501-C-6 not-for-profit destination marketing and management organization (DMMO). DMMOs are organizations charged with representing a specific destination and helping the long-term development of communities through a travel and tourism strategy.

It is the primary purpose of Explore Charleston to market Charleston and the surrounding area as an overnight destination. This focus resulted in an average of 7.68 million overnight visitors, with labor earnings of $4.85 billion, and an economic impact of over $12.82 billion in 2022.

Explore Charleston is also classified as a regional organization through the South Carolina Association of Tourism Regions, and represents ten different local governments within Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester Counties.

Funding for Explore Charleston is provided through membership dues, programs revenue, accomodations taxes, and grant monies from the State of South Carolina's destination specific marketing fund.

Explore Charleston maintains a fulltime staff of dedicated professionals who coordinate marketing, media & communications, sales and visitor relations for our region.

Put simply, Explore Charleston’s purpose is to generate overnight visitation to our community. All significant tourism economic activity flows from creating overnight visitation. The marketing strategies found in this publication are designed to stimulate demand for travel to our region, specifically seeking the highest yield for a visit.

As locals raising our own families here, Explore Charleston team members understand and value quality of life. As such, tourism management is an equally important focus of our work.

“Mass tourism” and “overtourism” are not our goals. Rather, we work to find the balance between a healthy tourism industry and a wonderful quality of life; we believe deeply that they are connected.

The Board of Governors sets the direction of the activities of Explore Charleston. Bylaws call for the board to be composed of elected and appointed members, to include representation from funding municipalities:


Chairman: Mr. John LaVerne, Bulldog Tours

Vice-Chairman: Mr. Dan Blumenstock, Fennell Holdings

Treasurer: Mr. David Jennings, Rosen & Hagood, LLC

Immediate Past Chairman: Mr. Michael Tall, Hospitality Consultant

Executive Committee: Mr. David Tart, Raines Hospitality

Executive Committee: Mr. Dan Battista, Lowe Enterprises


Mr. Matt Barba, Charlestowne Hotels

Mr. Brad Belt, Town of Kiawah Island

Mr. Carl Borick, The Charleston Museum

The Honorable Johnny Cribb, Berkeley County

The Honorable Timothy Goodwin, City of Folly Beach

The Honorable John W. Gregg, Town of Seabrook Island

Mr. Jimmy Hagood, Food for the Southern Soul

Mr. Tommy Hall, Lowcountry Hospitality Association

Mr. John Keener, Charleston Crab House

Mr. Jonathan Kish, Queen Street Hospitality

Mr. Frank Lapsley, North Charleston Coliseum

Mr. Casey Lavin, Beemok Hospitality

Mr. Rick Mosteller, Fort Sumter/Spiritline Cruises

Ms. Rhett Outten, Croghan’s Jewel Box

Mr. Femi Oyediran, Graft Wine Shop

Mr. Ed Riggs, Tourism Expenditure Review Committee

Mr. Patrick Rogers, Marriott Riverview

Mr. Oliver Rooskens, Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina

The Honorable Herb Sass, Charleston County Council

Mr. Terry Sedalik, Charleston Golf Course Owners Association

The Honorable Mike Seekings, CARTA, City of Charleston

The Honorable Peter Shahid, City of Charleston

The Honorable Rusty Streetman, City of Isle of Palms

The Honorable Keith Summey, City of North Charleston

The Honorable Guang Ming Whitley, Town of Mount Pleasant

Ms. Michelle Woodhull, Charming Inns of Charleston

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Explore Charleston’s $26 million budget is composed of three distinct revenue streams:

1. Accomodations tax (state and county - see Appendix)

2. Competitive grants through the State of South Carolina’s Destination Specific marketing fund

3. Member & Business Investment, ie:programs revenue generated from tourism-related businesses that access various services offered by Explore Charleston.



Estimation of Tourism’s Economic Impacts in the Greater Charleston Area

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JAN - DEC 2021 Source: Smith Travel Research Jan Feb March April May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Total 17.5% 44.1% 26.1% 12.8% 1.4% 2.3% -4.2% 6.1% 7.1% 0.0% 4.3% 1.1% 7.2% 3.5% 44.1% 43.6% 31.6% 12.2% 9.8% 1.4% 0.6% 2.7% 5.4% 2.8% 3.0% 11.1% Changes in ADR from 2021 Changes in Occupancy from 2021
74% 7% Group Sales 7% Visitor Services 5% Media / PR 3% Finances / HR 3% Operations 1% Executive <1% Deprecation Destination Marketing 37.5% Accommodations Tax 31% Destination Specific Grant Revenue 31.6% Non-Public Revenue SCORECARD Notes: Hotel room inventory figures represent 12-month averages. Hotel inventory includes only properties with 25 or more rooms. Total lodging sales are estimates based upon South Carolina’s 2% accommodation tax and include all paid forms of commercial lodging, such as hotels, rental villas, beach houses, and bed & breakfasts. Employment figures are 12-month averages of both part-time and full-time jobs in the Tri-County area that are categorized as “Leisure and Hospitality” by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some historical hotel figures have been updated from prior reports in order to account for updated data that have been received. An additional attraction was added in 2021, which is not included in prior years' data. Estimates of annual economic (sales) impacts and total labor earnings are based on annual IMPLAN models of the Charleston County regional economy and may not be comparable from year to year due to IMPLAN data set revisions and/or annual updates. Data sources include: Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; Smith Travel Research; South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism; Charleston County Aviation Authority; South Carolina Department of Revenue; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Datafy; Key Data; AirDNA; and the Office of Tourism Analysis. * Based on attendance at 18 of the area's top attractions North Carolina Florida Georgia Ohio Virginia Tennessee New York Pennsylvania Texas New Jersey About 10% were international visitors, mostly from Canada & UK TOP ORIGIN STATES OF VISITORS (NON SC) 1. History/Historic Sites 2. Food/Restaurants 3. Tours 4. Shopping 5. Beaches/Waterfront 6. Outdoor Recreation 7. Festivals & Events 8. Attractions CHARLESTON AREA’S GREATEST ASSETS Accommodations $537 Dining/Food $224 Local Transportation $54 Tours/Attractions $99 Retail Shopping $79 Other Shopping / Expenses $32 Total Expenditures $1,026 AVERAGE EXPENDITURES IN CHARLESTON (Per adult per trip) Note: The sum of all categories does not equal total expenditure because each category is calculated based on non-zero values.
Attraction Attendance 2,563,595 1,066,404 2,082,051 2,182,064 CHS Airport Passenger Traffic 2,435,497 975,233 2,099,419 5,322,147 Visitor Center Traffic 397,666 127,971 405,039 516,993 Charlotte, NC Atlanta, GA New York, NY Washington, DC Miami, FL Jacksonville, FL Raleigh, NC Savannah, GA Orlando, FL Philidelphia, PA TOP ORIGIN CITIES OF VISITORS 2019 2020 2021 2022 Estimated Number of Visitors (Millions) 7.43 5.12 7.23 7.68 Estimated Total Economic Impact (Billions) $9.67 $6.15 $10.62 $12.82 Percentage of Sales Attributable to Tourism 21.3% 14.7% 23.1% 23.8% Average Total Expediture Per Adult Per Trip $878 $779 $962 $1,026 Total Employment (Thousands) 50.8 41.1 46.2 51.1 Estimated Total Labor Earnings (Billions) $3.43 $2.29 $3.80 $4.85 Lodging Sales (Billions) $962.37 $633.05 $1,291.98 $1.53 Hotel Room Nights Sold 4,666,308 2,942,439 4,512,821 4,849,729 Hotel Average Occupancy 71.7% 46.2% 65.0% 70.0% Hotel Average Daily Rate $155 $123 $167 $185 Hotel Annualized RevPAR $40,533.44 $20,786.28 $39,649.69 $47,195.36 Hotel Room Inventory 18,162 18,544 19,056 19,056 Charleston Area Peninsula Inventory 4,568 4,689 4,755 4,755 West of the Ashley Inventory 1,966 1,966 1,966 1,966 North Charleston Area Inventory 7,707 7,939 8,057 8,057 East of the Cooper 3,222 3,251 3,426 3,426 Beach Communities 699 568 814 852

Initiative 1: Research is at the core of everything we do, therefore, we base planning, decisions and insights upon trusted tourism industry data sources.

Explore Charleston utilizes a researchbased approach to develop and implement its annual marketing plan. Every aspect of the plan is the result of decades of real-world experience and insight gained from a variety of research sources, which include the Office of Tourism Analysis at the College of Charleston, Smith Travel Research, Amadeus/TravelClick, Datafy, Knowland, Key Data, Destinations International, the US Travel Association and others. Every advertising placement is an element of the overall strategy, and its inclusion in the plan is based on its support for one or more of our marketing pillars: History, Family, Culinary, Arts & Culture, Shopping, and Outdoors / Recreation. These pillars are built upon the assets found in our community.

Initiative 2: Develop a comprehensive advertising placement schedule, across mediums, to reach the demographics of travelers who will have the greatest economic impact on the community.

Our marketing strategy has layered advertising mediums that are constantly evolving and are intended to work together for maximum exposure

MARKETING the Charleston Area

and reach. While innovative electronic promotions are integral, print remains relevant. Our print advertising is both fundamental and foundational, as it is responsible for the branding, positioning, and accolades that have established the Charleston area as one of the world’s premier destinations. These print campaigns are supported by a robust digital strategy that is continually being analyzed and further refined.

Thanks to our extensive video assets, we are able to run a variety of ads on streaming and paid social media. These ads accomplish any of several different goals: provide an introduction to our destination; promote a specific message, (ie beaches, culinary, holidays); and, promote packages or specific price points as the call to action. These ads have been especially effective in OTT (over the top) streaming platforms. OTT campaigns are launched in conjunction with new air service, allowing us to tailor the message to specific cities or DMA. Video assets are also utilized in our extremely popular social media feeds, which operate off a curated six-month calendar, and is developed and based on the industry’s seasonal needs and priorities. Paid boosted posts can be deployed very easily when a need arises, and this flexibility is another bonus to digital advertising.

Initiative 3: Deploy strategic investments in websites, online, and digital tools to keep the Charleston area in the minds of travelers.

Constant investment in Google ad words plays a key role in keeping our sites at the top of potential traveler online searches. Working with Book Direct provide the booking referral engine behind our websites that lead to direct business. Explorecharleston. com, CharlestonAreaBeaches. com, MeetCharleston.com, charlestonweddingguide.com, christmasincharleston.com, and AfricanAmericanCharleston.com are cornerstones in our promotional efforts. The sites are updated daily and upgraded regularly to keep content fresh and relevant.

Social media continues to be important to our strategy. Through a carefully crafted social media calendar, developed and based on the industry’s seasonal needs and priorities, the Charleston area is defining itself to a continually evolving audience while maintaining its reputation in a manner consistent with its status as a premier travel destination. However, social media also offers flexibility, so we are able to deploy campaigns in real-time when the need arises. While consistently growing our number of followers, we understand that it is even more important to increase the number of shares - the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth endorsement.

Initiative 4: Create economies of scale in advertising buys, content creation and creative assets.

Explore Charleston’s marketing department functions as an inhouse advertising agency that provides strategic planning, creative services, media buying, and account management all under one roof. This approach yields negotiating leverage in media buying, and avoids the expense of media commissions typically paid to a traditional advertising agency. Most importantly, the Explore Charleston marketing department serves only one client: the Charleston area.

Initiative 5: Generate collateral that can serve as interest or response pieces to those seeking information about visiting our community.

Annual publications created in-house for promotion include the Charleston Area Visitors Guide, Charleston Area Golf Guide, Charleston Area Wedding Guide and the Charleston Area Destination Planning Guide for group travelers. New to our lineup is Explore Black Charleston, a guide intended to lift up Black-owned, visitor-facing businesses. These printed pieces align with companion websites and are distributed at various locations such as our four area visitor centers, and all South Carolina State Welcome Centers. Further, our full-service mail center team distributes these guides at bulk-rates, producing a savings that makes the mail center self-sufficient.

Initiative 5: Generate collateral that can serve as interest or response pieces to those seeking information about visiting our community.

Annual publications created in-house for promotion include the Charleston Area Visitors Guide, Charleston Area Golf Guide, Charleston Area Wedding Guide and the Charleston Area Destination Planning Guide for group travelers. New to our lineup is Explore Black Charleston, a guide intended to lift up Black-owned, visitor-facing businesses. These printed pieces align with companion websites and are distributed at various locations such as our four area visitor centers, and all South Carolina State Welcome Centers. Further, our full-service mail center team distributes these guides at bulk-rates, producing a savings that makes the mail center self-sufficient.

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Media Brand Alignment Our Pillars

AAA Living AAA Living captures the drive market in GA, NC, SC and TN.

AAA World AAA World captures the drive market in DC, MD, VA and DE

AAA World AAA World captures the drive market in Ohio

AAA World AAA World captures the drive market in Cinni, Miami Valley, Toledo, and KY

AFAR AFAR readers are explorers. They seek authentic experiences that are unique to a place and its people. Privately owned, flexible in programs and access to leadership makes this title a natural fit for the Charleston area.

Better Homes & Gardens Inspires its readers to power a more colorful life through their food, gardens & travels.

Bon Appetit Where food and culture meet. Covers food through cooking, travel, fashion and design.

Conde Nast Traveler A staple in travel media. With global leadership, content focuses on experiences and inspiring travelers to make connections on a local level.

History, Family, Culinary, Arts & Culture, Shopping & Outdoors

Departures Uses storytelling around arts, cuisine, style and travel to deliver a high networth audience comprised of American Express Platinum Card and Centurion Members. History, Family,

ESSENCE Premium lifestyle and fashion magazine for African American women. Designed to inspire readers to move their lives forward personally, professionally, intellectually and spiritually.

Food & Wine Provides its readers with trusted recipes along with recommendations on restaurants, drinks and travel. Inspires readers to discover the best in food and wine.

Food Network Magazine

Tells the story of cuisine and the people beind the meal. Great for helping cooks discover their next favorite destination.

Garden & Gun With its headquarters in Charleston, celebrates the South through coverage of gardens, architectural pursuits along with adventurous travel and food & drink.

History, Family, Culinary, Arts & Culture, Shopping full page

History, Family, Culinary, Shopping spread spread spread spread spread

Culinary, Family & Shopping spread spread cover 2 page 1

History, Family, Culinary, Arts & Culture, Shopping & Outdoors

back cover back cover spread cover 2 page 1

back cover back cover

reverse cover spread spread spread spread spread

Kingdom Pre-eminent luxury golf and lifestyle magazine that provides its readers with travel coverage of the world's great golf destinations. Outdoors, shopping spread

Midwest Living Well established title covering middle America. Ownership roots based in Iowa, content directly touches its readers. With our ever growing air service from this market, this is an important tool to reach those visitors.

The New Yorker Captures readers throughout the NYC metro region as well as across the country. Audience is intelligent and well heeled, devoted to exploring and discovering the world. NYC metro has many non-stop flight options to Charleston, making this a vital market.

Smithsonian Readers are avid domestic travelers that love history, heritage, unique flavors and the sights that define a destination like the Charleston area.

History, family, shopping & outdoors spread spread spread spread

History, arts & culture spread spread spread full page

History, Family, Culinary, Arts & Culture, & Outdoors spread spread full page

Southern Living Personifies the South and celebrates all areas that appeal to the Charleston visitor History, Family, Culinary, Arts & Culture, Shopping & Outdoors

Travel & Leisure Audience is active travelers looking for reasons to return to our area. Focus on hotels remains strong and attractive for filling new rooms.

History, Family, Culinary, Arts & Culture, Shopping & Outdoors

spread spread spread spread spread spread full page high impact unit

high impact unit



full page spread spread gatefold

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July 2023 August 2023 Sept 2023 Oct 2023 Nov 2023 Dec 2023 Jan 2024 Feb 2024 Mar 2024 April 2024 May 2024 June 2024
History, Family & Outdoors full page + ad page full page + ad page
History, Family &
2 page spread 2 page spread
History, Family & Outdoors full page 2 page spread
History, Family & Outdoors 2 page spread
2 page spread 2 page spread 2 page spread high impact unit 2 page spread
Family, Culinary, Arts & Culture, Shopping & Outdoors
gatefold gatefold
2 page spread 2 page spread 2 page spread
Culinary, Arts & Culture, Shopping & Family
Arts & Culture, Shopping
2 page
2 page spread 2 page spread 2 page spread
impact unit
2 page spread 2 page spread 2 page spread full page
Culinary, Arts & Culture, Shopping & Outdoors

Sinclair Broadcast Group CompulseOTT is an advanced over-the-top television video ad delivery platform and powered by Compulse, one of the leading marketing technology and managed services companies. CompulseOTT enables advertisers to target viewers of over-the-top TV programming (streaming) through geo-targeting as well as by household income and areas of consumer interest.

Google Ad Display Target audiences through text ads on Google Search Result pages and display image ads on participating 3rd party websites. Control many


Member Support

Seasonal Advertising

Core KPI/Pillar Advertising

Video Advertising

Awareness Advertising

Member Support

Seasonal Advertising

Core KPI/Pillar Advertising

Video Advertising

Awareness Advertising

Member Support

Seasonal Advertising

Core KPI/Pillar Advertising

Video Advertising

Awareness Advertising

Member Support

Seasonal Advertising

Core KPI/Pillar Advertising

Video Advertising

Awareness Advertising

Member Support

Seasonal Advertising

Core KPI/Pillar Advertising

Video Advertising

Awareness Advertising

Member Support

Seasonal Advertising

Core KPI/Pillar Advertising

Video Advertising

Awareness Advertising

Member Support

Seasonal Advertising

Core KPI/Pillar Advertising

Video Advertising

Awareness Advertising

Member Support

Seasonal Advertising

Core KPI/Pillar Advertising

Video Advertising

Awareness Advertising

Facebook/Instagram Target audiences through various ad types on Facebook and Instagram from one ad management platform. Control many targeting options including Geo, Demographics, Time, Interests, Devices. Control spends and track performance from end-to-end.

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising Visitors Guide

Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales

Voting Campaigns

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising Visitors Guide

Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales

Voting Campaigns

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising

Visitors Guide Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales

Voting Campaigns

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising Visitors Guide

Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales Voting Campaigns

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising Visitors Guide

Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales

Voting Campaigns

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising Visitors Guide

Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales

Voting Campaigns

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising Visitors Guide

Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales

Voting Campaigns

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising Visitors Guide

Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales

Voting Campaigns

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising Visitors Guide Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales

Voting Campaigns

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising

Visitors Guide Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales Voting Campaigns

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising Visitors Guide Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales

Voting Campaigns

Seasonal Advertising

Core Advertising Visitors Guide

Lead Ads

Vis Messenger Ads

Fare Sales

Voting Campaigns

TikTok An audience that trends younger and that likely does not overlap the audiences of Google or Meta. Interest targeting options and a creator marketplace for potential influencer collaborations.

Youtube Awareness based video advertising. Mainly show as pre-roll advertising before a requested video is played. Great for announcements and awareness campaigns.

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

General Branding General Branding General Branding

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

Organic General Ad Support for younger audience

Christmas in Charleston Videos

General branding

Christmas in Charleston Videos

General branding

Christmas in Charleston Videos

General brandig

General Branding General Branding General Branding General Branding General Branding General Branding

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Aug 2023 Sept 2023 Oct 2023 Nov 2023 Dec 2023 Jan 2024 Feb 2024 Mar 2024 April 2024 May 2024 June 2024
Media Brand Alignment
1 general + 1 islands = 2 different :30 sec ads 1 general + 1 islands = 2 different :30 sec ads 2 holiday + 1 general + 1 islands = 4 different :30 sec ads 2 holiday + 1 general + 1 islands = 4 different :30 sec ads 2 holiday + 1 general + 1 islands = 4 different :30 sec ads 1 general + 1 islands = 2 different :30 sec ads 1 general + 1 islands = 2 different :30 sec ads 1 general + 1 islands = 2 different :30 sec ads 1 general + 1 islands = 2 different :30 sec ads 1 general + 1 islands = 2 different :30 sec ads 1 general + 1 islands = 2 different :30 sec ads Media
Alignment July 2023 Aug 2023 Sept 2023 Oct 2023 Nov 2023 Dec 2023 Jan 2024 Feb 2024 Mar 2024 April 2024 May 2024 June 2024
targeting options including Keywords, Geo, Demographics, Time, Interests, Devices. Control spends and track performance from end-to-end. Member Support Seasonal Advertising Core KPI/Pillar Advertising Video Advertising Awareness Advertising Member Support Seasonal Advertising Core KPI/Pillar Advertising Video Advertising Awareness Advertising Member Support Seasonal Advertising Core KPI/Pillar Advertising Video Advertising Awareness Advertising Member Support Seasonal Advertising Core KPI/Pillar Advertising Video Advertising Awareness Adver-
Television / OTT

COMMUNICATIONS media relations

Initiative 1: Seek and develop earned media that speaks to the character and assets of the Charleston area.

For industry professionals, sales initiatives are divided into two distinct segments... paid media and earned media. At Explore Charleston, the Communications and Media Relations department is directly responsible for earned (unpaid) media and serves as the liaison between the local hospitality industry and the media. This team has proven adept at coordinating requests for assistance and building relationships that exceed client expectations. Whether conducting editorial boards, hosting journalists or coordinating onsite shoots, the staff is proactive in providing the information and background necessary to make reporting on Charleston and the Lowcountry a pleasurable experience.

In addition to our culinary efforts, expanded emphasis has been placed on the arts and our unique cultural heritage, both of which are essential to enjoying the Charleston experience. An extensive photography and video library is maintained that is often utilized by journalists and broadcasters hoping to find the perfect image or background footage.

Initiative 2: Cultivate and nurture relationships through various societies and public relations outlets to stay top-of-mind with travel writers, journalists, editors and bloggers.

Team members are actively affiliated with the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the U.S. Travel Association, Travel South and the British Guild of Travel Writers. Involvement with these groups provide in-person opportunities to interact with media that we might not otherwise engage.

Business development through media relations powerhouse Lou Hammond Group is beneficial in attracting new, vetted journalists into our fold. Engagements with other media outlets, specifically those in the New York market, continue to be essential to our efforts.

Clipping service contracts through Burrelles Luce, Meltwater News, and News Exposure allow this team to track media mentions and perform ROI to determine our most engaging writers and journalists.

Initiative 3: Continually seek ways to tell new stories (and old stories new ways) - to external and local markets - about the Charleston area’s attributes.

Journalists are always seeking new information. This team assertively gathers the “What’s New?” quarterly packet to widely distribute area happenings among media and travel professionals to inspire story ideas. Staff members are experts in regularly building unique and engaging media itineraries and schedules that expose writers to new ideas, options, and opportunities.

Film projects are another way this team gets the job done. PBS’ Travel with Darley, Maker’s Way, and Dining with Chef Bob Waggonner are all film projects on the media staff’s agenda in the new fiscal year.

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SELLING the Lowcountry through Group Business

Initiative 1: Assertively sell the Charleston area as a meeting, convention, group tour and individual visitor destination.

Explore Charleston places a premium on doing the leg work that is required to sell the Charleston area to convention planners, travel agents and meeting planners, as well as regional, national, or international organizations and associations. Our staff has planned an aggressive tradeshow schedule for FY 23/24 and with one purpose in mind…to sell our community as a prime location for group business. We will utilize these efforts to drum up leads for our lodging partners, with the intent of turning those leads into definite business for our community.

The tradeshow list reflects the schedule for varied market segments that are tried and true for producing group business in our community. National and regional and board of directors meetings provide ample opportunities to showcase our area to planners of groups who are the “right fit” for our community.






SMERF (Social, Military, Educational, Religious and Fraternal groups)




The Charleston area is capable of hosting a multitude of groups and organizations, and attracting these meetings requires skilled and extensive work, many times years in the making. It is our role to build relationships and provide information and connections necessary that result in an organization choosing the Charleston area as host for its event or meeting. Development continues through globally-connected HelmsBriscoe, who has an important role in attracting clients. And our presence in CONNECT and Northstar Meetings is essential. Bottom line: this is a relationship business, and people do business with people they know and trust. Consistent communication is the key to success in this endeavour as is professional and personal relationship with planners who can produce business that is right for the Charleston area.

Keeping our community top-of-mind with top travel advisors, who develop and sell travel itineraries for time-starved travelers is essential to our efforts in group sales, even though these relationships are more leisure in nature. We will continue pursuit of these opportunities through International Luxury Travel Market, Signature Travel, Virtuoso and the Travel & Leisure Advisory Board.

Initiative 2: Expand the economic reach of group bookings by connecting planners with local businesses who can service their needs.

Every group, once booked, needs to be serviced in some way. Whether it’s setting up tours for attendees, dine

arounds, transportation, providing collateral, or arranging spousal outings, these needs present significant opportunity for businesses in the host destination. Our team’s goal is to expand the footprint of each piece of group business so that maximum ROI can be achieved.

Initiative 3: Actively seek opportunities to expand or deepen market segments, within the broader goals of Explore Charleston, with a specific eye towards growth in group sales business.

An example of expanded opportunities would be geographic, related to improved air service and significantly increased non-stop flights. In recent years, Explore Charleston worked with partners to aggressively seek new and expanded air service through Charleston International Airport. As a result, CHS is now able to offer competitive airfares and reduced travel time, factors that equate to a more enjoyable experience for visitors and business travelers alike. The presence of providers such as Southwest Airlines and jetBlue in the Charleston market continues to be a game changer for our industry. With over 60 non-stop flights through CHS, our geographic audience has evolved well beyond the drive market and opened so many doors of opportunity.

Initiative 4: Provide quality service and assistance to members of the local travel industry in seeking and facilitating group business.

Services offered by the Group Sales Department include:

• Convention Bids

• Cooperative Tradeshow Efforts

• Destination Planning Guide and Companion Site

• Familiarization Tours

• Housing Bureau

• Lead Generation

• Microsite

• Promotional Assistance for Groups

• Promotional Photography and Video

• Requests for Proposal

• Site Selection Assistance

• Site Visits

• Spouse Programs Registration and

• Off-Site Activities

• Tradeshows

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Association Corporate Government Incentive International Leisure Travel Tour & Travel Wedding Sports American Bus Association Marketplace X AENC Annual Trade Show X ASAE Annual Trade Show X X Brand USA Global Marketplace X CONNECT DC X X X CONNECT Marketplace X X X Connect Spring Marketplace X X X Destination Celebration X X Destination East X X X Destination Showcase X X X Destination Southeast X X X Georgia Bridal Show X X GSAE Annual Meeting & Trade Show X HelmsBriscoe ABC X X X X X Holiday Showcase X IMEX America X X X X Independent Planner Education Conference X X X IPW X ITB X Luxury Meetings Summit X X X MPI Carolinas Annual Trade Show X X MPI World Education Congress X X X Miletary Reunion Network X National Tour Association X National Tour Association Contact X New York Bridal Salon X X PCMA Convening Leaders X X X X SCSAE Annual Trade Show X SGMP National Education Conference X Signature Travel Annual Conference X SITE Southeast X X Sports Events Tourism Association X S.P.O.R.TS. The Relationship Con X STS Domestic Showcase X TEAMS X Travel South International X X X TNSAE Annual Trade Show X US Sports Congress Conference X VSAE Annual Tradeshow X Virtuoso Travel Week X X



Weddings are big businesses for our area, and destination weddings are the segment that is experiencing the most growth. In a destination wedding, neither of the people getting married lives in the Charleston area. This typically results in greater expenditures on accommodations, dining, catering, and a host of other goods and services. The Charleston area’s iconic and breathtaking locations, combined with our excellent support services make us a logical choice for a wedding… whether destination or homegrown!

Another secret? Having a wedding in a destination everyone wants to visit assures that guests have an even more memorable experience.


The Charleston area has long been a welcoming destination for all visitors, regardless of their sexual orientation. Our efforts in the LGBTQ+ market focus on marketing to groups and individuals to help them become more aware of what there is to see and do for LGBTQ+ travelers. This is achieved through direct outreach efforts to organizations, at travel shows, through LGBTQ+ friendly media, and through travel advisors who actively work with this market.


Spectator as well as participatory sporting events are a major component of our area’s visitor mix. Examples of annual spectator events include the Credit One Charleston Open on Daniel Island and the ESPN Charleston Classic held at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena. Participatory events include a multitude of youth sports tournaments and an impressive number of competitions designed for younger and older adults. The most well-known of these recurring events - and popular with all ages - is the annual Cooper River Bridge Run. The impact of sports events on the region’s tourism economy is one of our best kept secrets - each year over 600 sporting events of all sizes occur throughout the Charleston region, utilizing accommodations and facilities from the Isle of Palms to North Charleston and Seabrook Island.


Minority groups are a growing percentage of our annual individual and group visitation. These groups consist primarily of professional associations (legal, medical, educational), fraternal organizations, and family reunions. The largest percentage of these minority groups are African-American. We are continuing our outreach efforts to attract these groups via the VOICES: Stories of Change website, which utilizes the area’s rich Black history as an inducement to plan a visit or meeting here. Additionally, we are publishing Explore Black Charleston, a guide to highlight blackowned businesses in the area.

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As our industry continues to thrive, we are encountering new challenges to its continued success. These challenges are workforce development, transportation and parking, and hotel development. Consequently, Explore Charleston is stepping up to play a larger role in addressing each of these issues.

Workforce development is focused on having a sufficient and reliable supply of employees for every sector of our industry, from restaurants to attractions and lodging. Transportation and infrastructure is twofold: we need to find better and more affordable ways for our employees to get to work, and to address the time and costs associated with commuting. Expanding public transportation is

one element that will play a vital role and is particularly important for hourly workers.

Finally, as our area’s economy grows we often hear that we have “too many” construction projects underway...in tourism’s case, this comment is primarily aimed at hotels. Explore Charleston will play a leadership role in working with our elected

officials to determine what types of development make sense depending on location and market demand drivers. We intend to help residents and local leaders understand that every hotel is not created equal, and a project that is bad for one area may in fact be a huge benefit for another!


September 19, 2023 - University of South Carolina HRSM

September 19, 2023 - Virginia State University

September 27, 2023 - Eastern Carolina University

Sept/Oct - South Carolina State Hospitality / Business

Sept/Oct - Orangeburg Technical College

October 10-11, 2023 - Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park Campus

October 12, 2023 - Johnson and Wales, Providence Campus

October 25-26, 2023 - Auburn Hospitality School

internship and career fair

October 26, 2023 - University of Central Florida

November 2023 - Claflin University

February 2024 - Univeristy of South Carolina HRSM

February 2024 - Culinary Institute of America Spring Career Fair

March 2024 - College of Charleston

March 2024 - Johnson and Wales, Charlotte Campus

Spring 2024 - South Carolina State

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The tentative career / job fair schedule for our Workforce team in FY 23/24:

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT Recruitment & Retention

Initiative 1: Assess and monitor workforce needs of hospitality industry and create opportunities for job connections. Inspire career choices in hospitality and tourism to increase workforce supply.

Explore Charleston’s Workforce Development team remains in constant contact with the local tourism industry and their staffing needs. A Human Resources Roundtable has been established to have regular dialogue with area HR professionals to brainstorm solutions and best practices for employee issues and opportunities. Job fairs and career fairs are planned throughout the year to tap into college programs so that graduates consider building their careers and their lives in the Charleston area.


Innovative connections have come through this team to include “Turnaround Tuesday,” a job placement program created by our recruiter and tailored to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. With over 200 employee placements in the tourism industry since the program’s inception, Turnaround Tuesday has received multiple national awards through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In order to easily facilitate both job seekers and employers, this team works with a robust portal system. Vetted resumes can be found at lowcountryhospitalityassociation. com/for-members/resume-portal/ and open job positions in the local tourism industry can be viewed at https://www. lowcountryhospitalityassociation.com/ hospitality-careers/

Education & Training

Initiative 2: Provide meaningful workforce data for employers to make decisions about employee compensation and workforce solutions

Building a toolkit for tourism industry employers is an important piece of this team’s puzzle. Need wage data in order to see if you’re competitive? Call us; we can get real-time data from the IRS so that our industry is working with legitimate sources in making such important decisions.

And the go-to resource for all things workforce related can be found at lowcountryhospitalityassociation.com/formembers/business-resources/

Whether it’s recruiting new employees, finding transportation solutions for team members, or training opportunities, we have a community partner lined up to help.

Initiative 3: Continually identify industry needs and develop a robust curriculum to address the education and training for employees and employers in hospitality and tourism. Our Education team has a plethora of classes available throughout the year. We have over 50 courses scheduled for FY 23/24 and the list is ever-evolving. These are just a few examples of programs we offer, all complimentary for our members:


Excellent customer service is what sets our community apart! Explore Charleston recognizes this and offers courses for all employees. We also offer excellent leadership skills training for employees in management positions. Travel Council members.


Charleston Area Destination Education Training

This course is designed to better orient local sales managers with various venues and attractions that can be used for off-premise events in the Charleston area. This course at one time was a five day commitment, and, due to staffing shortages, is currently being revamped. CADET will return in a new, more condensed format in the fall of 2023.


Sales & Hospitality Industry Networking & Education

Our education team will lead these impactful sales training sessions on several different levels. Sales I is designed to develop core selling skills of cold calling, product presentation, business and communication etiquette, price quoting and meeting planners’ do’s and don’ts. Sales II Advanced Sales Training delves into prospecting and negotiating skills, along with social media and international etiquette. Other sales training is available that is more nichefocused.

Other classes address topics such as Revenue Management, Human Resources, Retaining Your Most Valuable Asset, Executive Team Development, Wellbeing, Unconscious Bias and a new Leadership series. These classes are designed for attractions, restaurants, wedding and destination management companies or any hospitality partner that wants to increase staff satisfaction, productivity, and revenue.

Check out our schedule for FY 23/24 and remember that these courses are complimentary for Travel Council members!

Photo Photo


Discrimination is an undeniable legacy of our painful history. Racial disparities and implicit and explicit bias persist, and we acknowledge the toll that systemic racism has had on marginalized groups, particularly Black communities. Just as Explore Charleston is steadfast in our desire to create a more informed and equitable community, we are also committed to sharing our region’s complete and unvarnished story. We have made strides over the past several years and are proud of our organization and industry’s efforts to ensure tourism is an inclusive, honest, and economically beneficial contributor to the greater Charleston area and our state.

We recognize opportunities always exist to listen, learn, and enhance Explore Charleston’s work.

There is no perfect blueprint for work of this magnitude, and we will stumble at times in our endeavors. Nevertheless, we will remain sincere, intentional, transparent, and action-oriented. DEI is a continuous process - a shared journey, a shared responsibility, and a shared opportunity. Our overarching vision to inspire current and future generations to achieve the worthy goal of equality for all people is guided by seven objectives. Working with our Board of Governors, Heart for

Hospitality Steering Committee, and other stakeholders, we commit to expanding, or where necessary, developing new tactics that will comprise our DEI plan and contribute to a tourism industry that benefits our residents and visitors today and for generations to come.

We will:

1. Promote the region as an inviting, inclusive destination.

2. Inspire a deeper understanding and appreciation of the contributions - from the 17th century to present day - of Africans and African Americans to Charleston‘s cultural heritage, including the pain and prosperity, heartbreak and hope.

3. Enrich marketing efforts to connect most effectively and authentically with visitors.

4. Support minority-led businesses that can benefit from tourism.

5. Build the cultural competence of internal and external audiences with the goal of cultural proficiency.

6. Evaluate opportunities to recruit and develop individuals from diverse backgrounds for staff, leadership, and governance opportunities.

7. Lead workforce development programs to ensure the Greater Charleston community is more fully

represented in the industry at all levels.

The need for our comprehensive workforce development program remains crucial. Recruiting and retaining qualified candidates and providing the training and mentoring they need to build a successful career is not new work for Explore Charleston. However, it has taken on an even greater level of importance for minority populations.

Our Heart for Hospitality initiative, created in August 2018, has focused on building awareness about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in our industry, and developing opportunities and pathways for underrepresented populations in our industry. The steering committee is composed of hospitality and local DEI professionals. Early initiatives addressed inclusion in the local tourism workforce through a series of unconscious bias training sessions. In light of the country’s recent civil unrest, the committee’s work expanded in scope as it became evident that Explore Charleston could become even more engaged on this important topic. Explore Charleston added a staff position whose sole responsibility is to address and create minority business opportunities. Listening sessions

were held to determine how we could better serve our minority-led members. Our “Code of Business Ethics” for members of Explore Charleston’s Travel Council was updated to encourage inclusionary practices for businesses associated with us. We are working diligently to enhance our “Voices” website, which focuses on the authentic history and stories of local African Americans, and to connect those stories to economic opportunities for our community. We are expanding our conversation around South Carolina’s role in the Civil Rights story, including a virtual reality exhibit at the Charleston Visitor Center focusing on the landmark Briggs vs. Elliott case that ultimately led to school desegregation. And we created a unique internship initiative. Explore Charleston's Intern Cultural Enrichment Program is specifically designed to recruit students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) into hospitality leadership. We also put pen to paper to solidify Explore Charleston’s DEI position and commitment:

Explore Charleston - Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Commitment

As the region’s destination marketing and management organization, Explore Charleston is steadfast in our desire to create a more informed, just and

equitable community. Explore Charleston’s work in the tourism industry is rooted in hospitality, and hospitality, at its core, demands a spirit of inclusivity. We have long believed there is no place in our society for racism, prejudice, or any violence or hatred associated with such beliefs. Sustainable and equitable communities can only be achieved through economic and social opportunity for all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, level of ability, religious belief or cultural background. Empathy, respect and integrity are vital to our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Every organization and individual plays a role. A commitment to DEI requires all of us to display empathy, respect and integrity.

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Intern Cultural Enrichment Program

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Initiative 1: Provide an outstanding, inclusive welcome and accurate information to all people. With a heart of service, set expectations for guests, reminding them that the Charleston area is a living, breathing community.

While our mission is to promote the Charleston area, it is also our responsibility to manage the flow of visitors. Our area visitor centers allow for work that is central to tourism management efforts, which is important to the quality of life for area residents. Visitors need to understand that restroom facilities are limited in the historic district, as is parking, for example.

Each day the staff members who work in this department serve as the de facto face of our community. Whether it is the thousands of walk-ins that step through the door at each of our four locations, or the numerous phone inquiries and online chats that are fielded by our call center, the first impression that we make is vitally important to our collective industry and our region.

Initiative 2: Encourage visitors to explore the broader community. Operating visitor centers in Charleston, Mount Pleasant, North Charleston, and Kiawah Island, each day our dedicated staff excels at meeting our customers’ varied needs and expectations.

evolving programming.

Services in all visitor centers range from distributing maps, visitor guides and brochures, to assisting with same day hotel reservations and selling tickets for tours and attractions. We are proud that over 150,000 tickets to tours and attractions are sold annually via our Visitor Services locations. Our geographic footprint allows us to spread visitors throughout the community, recommending diverse itineraries, based on the travelers’ interest.

Initiative 3: Service groups, where appropriate, with mini-visitor centers.

Perhaps the most important—and unexpected—product our Visitor Services staff provides is assistance with large groups and conventions. An increasing number of associations and organizations are choosing the Charleston area for their annual meetings and conventions. Visitor Services assists by setting up onsite visitor information booths to answer questions and make other arrangements for individual attendees.

This ability to go above and beyond is now becoming the standard for the industry... and it began here.

month via phone, email and web-based live chat. From general questions on what to see and do, to serving as fact checkers, our staff relishes helping our visitors plan their trip.

However, where VIS truly shines is during an emergency by providing real-time updates on travel conditions and business closures. Whether the crisis is a hurricane, or more recently, a pandemic, VIS operators play a critically important role by gathering anddisseminating the most current information to potential travelers to our community. This is an invaluable service for many, including our municipal partners who don’t have the time or staff to answer constant inquiries of this nature, especially in the time of crisis.


Initiative 1: Working with the Board of Governors, plan, implement and oversee the current and future programs and services of Explore Charleston.

These departments serve as the coordinating centers for Explore Charleston. Long-range strategic planning and leadership are at the core, however, execution of cross-departmenal initiatives come into play in day-to-day oversight and management. Production of the Program of Work and the Annual Report are examples of the needed 30,000 foot view, while nailing down details of the audit and tax return reflect the importance of “getting the details right”. These teams must “keep an eye on the ball” while juggling many of them!

Coordinating regular meetings of the Board of Governors, ensuring accurate and regular financial reporting, as well as weekly communication to this oversight group are important functions. Ensuring regular communication with hospitality and tourism businesses is essential to understanding the needs of the industry, as is our response to those needs.

Initiative 2: Build and maintain strong relationships within local, state, and federal governments and agencies.

for grant funding. Connect with other state agencies as needed to advance initiatives. A great example of this is our Workforce Development team building bridges with the SC Department of Employment and Workforce. Other agencies commonly engaged include SC Department of Revenue, SC Treasurer’s Office, and SC Department of Agriculture.

Initiative 3: In collaboration with governments, civic organizations and other entities, assess opportunities and address issues affecting livability, sustainability and responsible economic development.

Initiative 4: Ensure that funding is in place for initiatives across Explore Charleston. Monitor and provide appropriate resources that are needed for departments across Explore Charleston in order to address the mission of the organization.

These departments must ensure that the organization and each of its team members has what is needed to fulfill the mission of Explore Charleston. This includes, and it not limited to, office space and equipment, utilities, technology services, insurance and supplies. Our organization’s business relationships rest with this department to include insurance, legal, banking, audit and tax needs.

The Charleston Visitor Center has been transformed into a high tech, high touch facility for orienting and assisting first-time visitors. This will also establish it as a must seeattraction for repeat visitors thanks to a variety of new exhibits and constantly

Initiative 4: Provide outstanding customer service for people considering a trip to the Charleston area, specifically with regard to planning. Serve as the front line for the Charleston area visitor industry during times of crisis.

One of the most important duties of the Visitor Services department is our Visitor Inquiry Service (VIS). These dedicated operators answer myriad inquiries each

Regularly communicate with our governments, their elected officials and key staff members. Stay abreast of information within each municipality and incorporate visitor elements into Explore Charleston’s activities. Develop and facilitate plans to maintain relationships via a network of staff leaders at Explore Charleston who are charged with this important responsibility. Communicate needs of the hospitality and tourism industry at the local, state and federal levels.

Participate at every level within the South Carolina Departmen of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. Ensure accurate and strong representation of the Charleston area within state promotions and when applying

Hospitality and tourism are vital to the success of the Charleston area, as evidenced by the 51,000 locals residents who support their families through this industry. A successful tourism economy creates ripple effects that make our communities more vibrant, dynamic, diverse and enjoyable places to live, work, and visit. The Charleston region is renowned for both its quality of life and thriving, diverse economy. Woven into our work is a deep sense of responsibility to protect what makes this place so special while ensuring the viability of the tourism industry and its far-reaching benefits for our region. Explore Charleston champions economic diversification and firmly believes it creates a more resilient community. Growth and preservation are not mutually exclusive, and balance is paramount. In partnership with various stakeholders, we will continue to engage in efforts to promote tourism management, enhance quality of life, protect sense of place, and support cultural and environmental sustainability.

The Finance Team prepares, manages and oversees all financial operations including an annual outside audit and tax reporting. A talented team of individuals manages Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable for healthy cash flows so that funds are available when needed for programming.

Initiative 5: Nurture and grow our number one resource, our team of dedicated staff members.Explore Charleston’s Human Resources Team is the center of our organization. There is no question that our staff members are our greatest attribute and our culture celebrates and honors their contributions. The health of our team members, their long-term financial stability, and time with family are all essential and therefore insurance, 401(k) and planned leave are all part of our compensation package. Education is valued; taking advantage of professional development opportunites is encouraged and leads to growth for individuals. The average length of service for Explore Charleston employees is currently 12.6 years! This speaks to the commitment our team members have to our mission and it also speaks to the commitment we have to our staff.




It is often said that a rising tide floats all boats. Our marketing campaigns are what is known as the “top half of the sales funnel” in that they’re designed to boost awareness of, interest in and desire for travel to the Charleston area. Our group sales initiatives create demand generation and lead generation. It is then up to individual businesses to convert those opportunities into sales.

Travel Council is the membership division of Explore Charleston and over 800 businesses participate. Local tourism-related businesses can apply for membership in order to access various services offered that are above and beyond destination marketing. These opportunities include:

• Bi-monthly tourism industry meetings.

• Robust education and training programs. (See page ____)

• Online listing at ExploreCharleston.com

• Printed listing in the Official Charleston Area Visitors Guide.

• Opportunity to purchase various forms of print and digital advertising.

• Opportunity to display brochures at local area visitor centers and sell tour and event tickets.

• Business referrals from both Group Sales and Visitor Inquiry Services teams.

• Qualified social media opportunities.


Explore Charleston utilizes a web-based Customer Relationship Management (C.R.M.) system and internal database hosted by Simpleview, a software firm catering to DMMOs since 2001. The Extranet, Simpleview’s online portal allows members access to their account within the C.R.M. database. Member businesses have the ability to make changes to their account information, staff contacts, add special offers, submit hotel packages, review and edit listings, view and respond to leads, service requests and referrals, learn about new Explore Charleston opportunities, find important membership information, and access research tools all via one portal and in near real time.

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In December 2007, Wild Dunes Resort signed on as the first Destination Fee Program participant and began voluntarily contributions of this fee from each room night sold to Explore Charleston’s marketing budget. Thanks to the state’s Destination Specific Tourism Marketing Grant Program (which matches $0.50 for every private sector dollar raised by Explore Charleston), programs such as Travel Council and the Destination Fee Program have grown significantly. It is these combined efforts that allow the Charleston area to compete successfully with other well-funded destinations.


Andell Inn

Andrew Pinckney Inn

Ansonborough Inn

Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, The

Best Western Charleston Inn

Cambria Charleston Riverview

Cambria Hotel & Suites Mt. Pleasant

Cambria Hotel & Suites Summerville

Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina

Charleston Marriott

Charleston Place, The

Comfort Inn Downtown Charleston

Courtyard Charleston Historic District

Courtyard Charleston Mt. Pleasant

Courtyard Charleston Waterfront

Crowne Plaza Charleston Airport - Convention Center

Dewberry Charleston, The

DoubleTree by Hilton Charleston Mount Pleasant

DoubleTree by Hilton North Charleston Convention Center

Elliott House Inn

Embassy Suites by Hilton Charleston Harbor Mount Pleasant

Embassy Suites by Hilton Charleston Historic District


Fairfield Inn & Suites Charleston Airport/Convention Center

Fairfield Inn & Suites Charleston University/Trident Area

Fairfield Inn by Marriott Charleston North/Ashley Phosphate

Francis Marion Hotel

French Quarter Inn

Fulton Lane Inn

Grand Bohemian Hotel Charleston

Hampton Inn & Suites Charleston Airport

Hampton Inn & Suites Charleston University Blvd.

Hampton Inn & Suites Charleston-West Ashley

Hampton Inn & Suites Mt. Pleasant - Isle of Palms

Hampton Inn Charleston - Historic District

Hampton Inn Daniel Island

Hampton Inn Mt Pleasant Patriots Point

HarbourView Inn

Hilton Garden Inn Charleston Airport

Hilton Garden Inn Charleston Waterfront/Downtown

Hilton Garden Inn Charleston/Mt.Pleasant

Hilton Garden Inn Summerville

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Charleston - Mount Pleasant

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Charleston Airport - Convention Center

Holiday Inn Express Savannah Highway

Home2 Suites by Hilton Charleston Daniel Island

Homewood Suites by Hilton Charleston - Mt. Pleasant

Homewood Suites by Hilton Charleston Airport / Convention Center



Print and digital versions of this guide are highly requested. This piece is the go-to guide for planning a trip to the Charleston area.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Charleston Historic District

Homewood Suites Summerville

Hotel Bella Grace

Hotel Bennett

Hyatt House Charleston - Historic District

Hyatt House Charleston/Mount Pleasant

Hyatt Place - Mt. Pleasant/Towne Centre

Hyatt Place Charleston - Historic District

Hyatt Place Charleston Airport/Convention Center

Indigo Inn

Jasmine House

John Rutledge House Inn

Kings Courtyard Inn

Limited Hotel

Loutrel, The Market Pavilion Hotel

Meeting Street Inn

Mills House, The North Charleston Marriott

Palmetto Hotel, The Palms Oceanfront Hotel, The Renaissance Charleston Historic District Hotel

Residence Inn by Marriott Airport

Residence Inn by Marriott Riverview

Residence Inn Charleston North/Ashley Phosphate

Residence Inn® by Marriott® Charleston Mt. Pleasant

Restoration Hotel, The Ryder Hotel, The Seaside Inn

Shem Creek Inn

Sleep Inn Charleston

Sleep Inn Mt. Pleasant

Spectator Hotel, The

SpringHill Suites by Marriott Charleston Downtown / Riverview

SpringHill Suites by Marriott Mt. Pleasant

SpringHill Suites Charleston Airport & Convention Center

Staybridge Suites Mt. Pleasant/Charleston

Tides at Folly Beach, The

TownePlace Suites Charleston Airport/Convention Center

TownePlace Suites Charleston Mt. Pleasant

Vendue Hotel, The Wentworth Mansion

Wild Dunes Resort

Wingate by Wyndham Charleston Airport Coliseum

Zero George

To join or learn more, contact Andy Rankin at 843.805.3033 or arankin@explorecharleston.com


This guide honors contributions of Black people to the Lowcountry and celebrates the Gullah culture. Local Black owned businesses that would be of interest to visitors are highlighted.


Charleston was the birthplace of golf in America, laying claim to the nation’s first course. Today, golfers can use this handy publication to plan group outings at the area’s 19-courses as well as an extended stay in the Charleston area.


This piece packs an impressive punch with step-by-step instructions on planning a gathering of any kind that includes 10 or more people. With venue information and hotel space layouts, the book sets the bar for meeting and event planning.


The wedding guide was completely redesigned in 2021 to feature a new, larger format, luxurious paper stock, curated editorial, and a sophisticated new design. It's a must have for couples planning to tie the knot in the Charleston area.

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The Honorable Johnny Cribb

The Honorable Steve Davis

The Honorable Phillip Obie II

The Honorable Dan Owens

The Honorable Caldwell Pinckney, Jr.

The Honorable Amy Stern

The Honorable Marshall West

The Honorable Josh Whitley CHARLESTON COUNTY

The Honorable Teddie Pryor

The Honorable Joe Boykin

The Honorable Henry Darby

The Honorable Jenny Honeycutt

The Honorable Larry Kobrovsky

The Honorable Kylon Middleton

The Honorable C. Brantley Moody

The Honorable Herb Sass

The Honorable Rob Wehrman


The Honorable John Tecklenburg

The Honorable Ross Appel

The Honorable Stephen Bowden

The Honorable Karl Brady

The Honorable Boyd Gregg

The Honorable William Dudley Gregorie

The Honorable Robert Mitchell

The Honorable Caroline Parker

The Honorable Jason Sakran

The Honorable Mike Seekings

The Honorable Peter Shahid, Jr.

The Honorable Kevin Shealy

The Honorable P. Keith Waring


The Honorable Tim Goodwin

The Honorable Adam Barker

The Honorable Eddie Ellis

The Honorable William Farley

The Honorable Billy Grooms

The Honorable Katherine Houghton

The Honorable DJ Rich


The Honorable Phillip Pounds

The Honorable Jan Anderson

The Honorable John Bogosian

The Honorable Blair Hahn

The Honorable Katie Miars

The Honorable Scott Pierce

The Honorable Kevin Popson

The Honorable Rusty Streetman

The Honorable Jimmy Ward


The Honorable John Labriola

The Honorable Brad Belt

The Honorable Russell Berner

The Honorable Michael Heidingsfelder

The Honorable John Moffitt


The Honorable Will Haynie, Mayor

The Honorable Howard Chapman

The Honorable Brenda Corley

The Honorable Laura Hyatt

The Honorable John lacofano

The Honorable Jake Rambo

The Honorable Carl Ritchie

The Honorable Gary Santos

The Honorable G.M. Whitley


The Honorable Keith Summey, Mayor

The Honorable Ron Brinson

The Honorable Michael Brown

The Honorable Mike A. Brown

The Honorable Sam Hart

The Honorable Jerome Heyward

The Honorable Virginia Jamison

The Honorable Rhonda Jerome

The Honorable Robert King

The Honorable Kenny Skipper

The Honorable Dorothy Williams

The Honorable Ryan Johnson

The Honorable Ray Anderson


The Honorable John Gregg

The Honorable Jeri Finke

The Honorable Patricia Fox

The Honorable Barry Goldstein

The Honorable Dan Kortvelesy


The Honorable Patrick O'Neil

The Honorable Ned Higgins

The Honorable Carl Hubbard

The Honorable Jody Latham

The Honorable Scott Millimet

The Honorable Justin Novak

The Honorable Gary Visser

A state-wide tax is imposed upon the gross proceeds from the rentals or charges for sleeping accommodations furnished at any place in which rooms, lodgings, or sleeping accommodations of any kind are furnished, including but not limited to hotels, motels, inns, condominiums or residences.


6% State Sales Tax (only 5% applies to lodging)

3% Local Option Sales Tax

(includes 1% school capital projects tax and .5% transportation improvement tax)

2% State Accommodations Tax

2% Charleston County Accommodations Tax + 1 - 2% Local Accommodations Tax (depending upon municipality)

13-14% Taxes paid on local lodging establishments


The Honorable Joseph Bustos

The Honorable Gil Gatch

The Honorable Wendell Gilliard

The Honorable Tom Hartnett

The Honorable Lee Hewitt

The Honorable Kathy Landing

The Honorable Matt Leber

The Honorable JA Moore

The Honorable Chris Murphy

The Honorable Marvin R. Pendarvis

The Honorable Leon Stavrinakis

The Honorable Deon Tedder

The Honorable Spencer Wetmore

The Honorable Brian Adams

The Honorable Sean Bennett

The Honorable George E. Campsen

The Honorable Stephen Goldfinch

The Honorable Larry Grooms

The Honorable Marlon Kimpson

The Honorable Margie Matthews

The Honorable Sandy Senn

9.4% City of Charleston Atax 3.6% City of Isle of Palms Atax 3.1% City of North Charleston Atax 3.2% Town of Kiawah Island Atax 2.8% Town of Mount Pleasant Atax Town of Seabrook Island Atax Town of Sullivan's Island Atax Berkeley County Atax City of Folly Beach Atax 38.4% Member & Business Investment 29.3% Destination Specific Grant Revenue 9.4% Charleston County Atax


The Charleston Area Sports Commission, Charleston Heritage Federation, Charleston & Resort Islands Golf, Charleston Restaurant Foundation, and Lowcountry Hospitality Association each operate under the umbrella of Explore Charleston with independent non-profit status, boards, committees and/or task forces and budgets. Each has a niche focus in tourism and hospitality.






CASC is a 501c6 organization that works to generate interest in the area through sporting events. Sports, whether through individual or team competition, is big business!



CHF is a 501c3 that serves as the collective voice for the area’s non-profit cultural and heritage organizations, and oversees the Essential Charleston Passport.


This group is a 501c6, and a collaboration between Explore Charleston and the Charleston Golf Course Owners Association. These groups work closely in order to leverage the area’s spectacular golf courses to generate new and increased visitation from the leisure and meetings markets.

Follow us on Twitter:



The CRF, a 501c3, presents the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival, one of the area’s most popular events and a long-time contributor to local charities.

Follow us on Facebook:





Remaining one of the top destinations in the world is dependent on a skilled workforce and the opportunity for hospitality-related businesses to function at top form. LHA, a 501c6 entity, presents a unified voice in governmental affairs and addresses the workforce needs of the industry.

Follow us on Instagram: @ExploreCharleston




Follow us on TikTok @ExploreCharleston_SC


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