What We Do

The mission of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau 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. CACVB Departments collaborate to fulfill this mission, which is complimented by the programs of work through our auxiliary organizations.

Executive

The Executive Department of the CACVB develops long-range strategic planning for the Bureau, coordinates all departmental activities within the organization and develops policies and programs to further diversify the product mix and appeal of the Charleston area as a destination. The Executive team works to detect market trends and implement policies that encourage sustainable tourism initiatives and development. The CACVB aims to leverage the economic and quality of life contributions of tourism to further economic development efforts for the region. Increasing the length of stay for visitors to our area as well as their daily per person expenditures are consistent goals to positively impact our investors, funding municipalities and the State of South Carolina.

Tourism management is a key component of the Executive Department's role. This is handled strategically through working closely with local governments and key constituent groups to proactively address tourism issues. Our community relations effort supports our tourism management plan in terms of maintaining a positive image for the tourism industry and the CACVB.

The Executive Department oversees daily operations and administration, budgeting, financial reporting, cash management and fundraising efforts for the Bureau, as well as its auxiliary organizations.
Helen Hill
CEO
Ph: 843-805-3107
jwillson@explorecharleston.com

Perrin Lawson
VP of Business Development /Deputy Director
Ph: 843-805-3050
plawson@explorecharleston.com

Laurie Lynn Smith
VP of Operations / Chief Operating Officer
Ph: 843-805-3063
lsmith@explorecharleston.com

John Willson
Director of Administration and Assistant to the Executive Director
Ph: 843-805-3107
jwillson@explorecharleston.com

Information Technology Staff


Darby Keene
IT Manager
Ph: 843-958-3623
dkeene@explorecharleston.com

Patrick Alderson
Data Management Coordinator
Ph: 843-958-3623
palderson@explorecharleston.com

Human Resources and Finance Staff


Amy Hutto
Human Resources Director
Ph: 843-805-3101
ahutto@explorecharleston.com

Kayce Halstead, CPA
Director of Finance
Ph: 843-805-3046
khughes@explorecharleston.com

Chimeca Everette
Accounts Receivable Accountant
Ph: 843-958-3624
ceverette@explorecharleston.com

Tish Jaynes
Accounts Payable and Payroll Accountant
Ph: 843-805-3024
tjaynes@explorecharleston.com

Mail Center Staff


Marc Gibson
Mail Center Manager
Ph: 843-805-3082
mgibson@explorecharleston.com

Scott Stephens
Mail Center Assistant
Ph: 843-853-8000
sstephens@ExploreCharleston.com

How is the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau organized?
The CACVB is a non-profit 501(c) 6 organization. The organization is led by an elected Board of Governors and is funded though a 55% public / 45% private partnership. The CACVB builds synergies around the public / private investments and is able to collectively do more to promote the Charleston area as a result of this collaborative.

Public funds for tourism promotion come to the CACVB via: Private funding for the CACVB is raised through a variety of programs including:
What is meant by the term "CACVB funding municipalities?"
The State of South Carolina imposes a 2% state accommodations tax on all lodging properties. State law reads that 30% of the state accommodations tax collections within a given municipality must invest in advertising for that area through a designated tourism promotion organization. The CACVB is the designated tourism promotional organization for the following local municipalities: The County of Charleston also collects a 2% county accommodations tax from lodging properties. Charleston County elects to promote tourism advertising by funding the CACVB with 10% of its county accommodations tax collections.

A big part of the CACVB Executive Department's responsibility lies in coordinating the communication of the Bureau's program of work with our municipalities. Staff members work closely with elected officials, key staff members, and committees to ensure understanding and support for the Bureau's destination marketing programs.

Our collaborative approach works to promote the diversity of the Charleston region, mainly because visitors don't realize when they've crossed municipal lines! The CACVB aims to spread visitors throughout the community - to spend the night, play some golf, visit any of our area's beautiful beaches, do a little (or a lot of) shopping, dine in restaurants, enjoy our rich history, and enjoy more of what the unique Charleston area offers. Visitors enjoy our destination and their dollars in turn contribute to the economic impact of our community!

What financial information is available from the CACVB?
Audited financial statements and IRS form 990 documents are available at the CACVB’s Executive Offices (423 King Street, Charleston, SC 29403). For more information, please contact Laurie Lynn Smith at 843-805-3063 or LSmith@ExploreCharleston.com.

How do I apply for a job with the CACVB?
Job applications for employment can be downloaded here: Job Application.
Please submit all applications to Amy Hutto at ahutto@explorecharleston.com.

Marketing

The CACVB Marketing Department develops the Bureau's marketing strategies, and devises and implements results-oriented promotional programs with the purpose of enhancing the image of the Charleston area as an attractive leisure, meeting and group destination.

The department is also responsible for developing all advertising and collateral materials to support the marketing program and all other departments in the CACVB.
Catherine Dority
Director of Marketing
Ph: 843-805-3090
cdority@explorecharleston.com

Chisholm Seabrook
Assistant Director of Marketing
Ph: 843-805-3081
Cseabrook@explorecharleston.com

Joy Halstead
Graphic Designer
Ph: 843-805-3021
jhalstead@explorecharleston.com

Janelle Riolo
Graphic Designer
Ph: 843-849-3630
jriolo@explorecharleston.com

Kara Wells
Marketing Assistant
Ph: 843-958-3634
kwells@explorecharleston.com

Travel Council Staff

Andy Rankin
Director of Investor Relations
Ph: 843-805-3033
arankin@explorecharleston.com

Sandy Nivens
Investor Relations Manager
Ph: 843-958-3620
snivens@explorecharleston.com

Martha Bratton
Investor Relations Manager
Ph: 843-958-3622
mbratton@explorecharleston.com

Jermaine White
Retail Account Representative
Ph: 843-805-3099
jwhite@explorecharleston.com

Jennifer Wilson
Advertising Sales Manager
Ph: 843-805-3005
jwilson@explorecharleston.com

Annie McEwen
Director of Membership Programs
Ph: 843-805-3084
amcewen@explorecharleston.com

Suzanne Wallace
Director of Education & Training
Ph: 843-805-3057
swallace@explorecharleston.com

When placing advertising, how are publications, websites and other mediums selected?
The CACVB Marketing Department carefully selects how valuable advertising dollars are spent in an effort to benefit the Charleston area and attract visitors to our community at times when there is the greatest opportunity for occupancy growth. With input from our Board of Governors and Marketing Chairman, the department selects tools which most closely fit our targeted demographic. One example is the highly respected travel magazine, Travel+ Leisure, which consistently reaches an audience of traveling consumers who are college educated, averaging a household income in excess of $75,000 with an interest in history/culture, resort beaches, cuisine and shopping. This is a very fitting demographic for the Charleston area.

How does the department measure the effectiveness of its marketing efforts?
 Research is a key element in measuring the success of advertising strategies and in directing appropriate future placements. The Marketing Department works closely with the College of Charleston's Office of Tourism Analysis to track visitor inquiries, demographics, conversion rates, occupancy and average daily visitor expenditures. In addition, all advertising and marketing programs incorporate trackable systems for measuring our success.

Marketing strategies utilize a variety of tools including:

Media & PR

The CACVB Media Relations Department works to promote travel to the Charleston area by soliciting and supporting members of the media to create positive editorial coverage. Consumer and travel trade publications are important in this endeavor, as well as freelance writers, photographers, targeted publications and electronic mediums. The department conducts press trips and assists Travel Council investors with individual media trips. Staff members continuously research and pitch new and evolving stories to generate media interest in the Charleston area as a travel destination.

Evidence of the importance of our media strategy comes from the most recent  Visitor Inquiry survey. The report tells us that nearly 30% of respondents stated that they decided to visit the Charleston area due to a magazine and / or newspaper article that they read about Charleston!

The Media Relations staff handles research and story requests from travel writers, magazines, newspapers, on-line journalists, television and film crews. Opportunities to assist these valuable partners exist for Gold Travel Council investors through our  media leads. These confidential leads provide an inside track to the outside journalism world!

Be sure to check and enthusiastically respond to these leads as they can result in invaluable media coverage for your business. For example, if there is a FAM trip or a media writer coming into the Charleston area and they are looking for complimentary transportation, meals or tours, this could be a great opportunity to showcase your business. Participation could expose you to writers who are doing a piece for a national magazine!

Download Travel Council Investment Media Benefits - Editorial Focus
Download Travel Council Investment Media Benefits - Retail Focus
Doug Warner
Director of Media Relations
Ph: 843-958-3631
dwarner@explorecharleston.com

Hannah Shaffer
Social Media Coordinator
Ph: 843-805-3074
hshaffer@explorecharleston.com
Halsey Perrin
Media Relations Assistant
Ph: 843-805-3051
hperrin@explorecharleston.com
How does a writer request assistance with a stay in the Charleston area?
A journalist personally contacts the Media Relations Department and sends a confirmed letter of assignment. Whether a freelance travel writer or on staff at a publication, a television producer or radio talent, journalists from all mediums may receive assistance with planning an itinerary. This assistance is made possible through assistance from our Travel Council investors.

How does the Media Relations Department verify a journalist's credentials?
The department checks the legitimacy of a writer by requesting that the individual complete a "Visiting Media Request Form." The staff also collects data on the media outlet, such as its circulation, publication schedule and distribution area, and requests samples of the writer's work for review. A staff member may call an editor to confirm a travel writer's assignment.

How does the Media Relations Department encourage writers to visit our area?
Given substantial lead time, the department is happy to assist the writer. Staff members explain that complimentary accommodations are made at the discretion of the CACVB's host businesses (Travel Council investors), and therefore, are subject to availability. Writers are encouraged to consider travel for a Sunday-Thursday time frame and to accept press rates, especially during black-out periods.

What is the procedure for a travel business to host a visiting journalist?
 Media updates that describe the visiting writer's agenda and pitch are produced and distributed to hotels, restaurants, tour companies, attractions and all Travel Council investors through the weekly CACVB leads program. Investors respond to the lead form indicating their interest in providing accommodations, meals, tour services, private tours, etc. Additionally, writers visiting the Charleston area are equipped with a VIP Pass, which grants access to attractions, tours and historic sites while conducting their research.

How should a travel business follow up with a writer they hosted?
Upon request, the writer's contact information is provided for the businesses to follow up with additional materials, personal notes, etc.

Does the CACVB have any tips for dealing with the media?
The CACVB staff is happy to give our Travel Council investors some guidelines for  How to Write a Press Release,  Tips for Responding to Media Leads and Pitching Stories and  Tips for Speaking with the Press. Two important things to remember: Nothing is ever off the record and if you can help the media with their deadlines / make their job easier, you'll have a friend for life!

Group Sales

The CACVB Sales Department strives to bring the most qualified group leads to the local travel industry. The department also works to keep our industry partners informed of the latest travel trends in group business.
Chris Hendrix, CMP
Director of Sales
Ph: 843-805-3083
chendrix@explorecharleston.com
Sales Markets: Corporate, Incentive, SC & GA Associations

Angie Day
Assistant Director of Sales
Ph: 843-805-3052
aday@explorecharleston.com
Sales Markets: National Associations, Northeast Region

Jennifer Aiken
Sales Manager
Ph: 843-805-3066
jaiken@explorecharleston.com
Sales Markets: Tour & Travel, International

John Michael McCants
Sales Manager
Ph: 843-805-3098
Jmmccants@explorecharleston.com
Sales Markets: SMERF

Mary Guerry
Sales Manager
843.805.3088
mguerry@explorecharleston.com
Sales Markets: Weddings

Carson Lumpkin
Sales Coordinator
Ph: 843-958-3635
clumpkin@explorecharleston.com

Emily York
Sales Coordinator
Ph: 843-242-3102
eyork@explorecharleston.com

Serge Polyachenko
Sales Assistant
Ph: 843-805-3072
spolyachenko@explorecharleston.com

Lindsey Lambrakos
Sales Assistant
Ph: 843-805-3105
llambrakos@explorecharleston.com

Kathleen Cartland
Executive Director, Charleston Metro Sports Council
Ph: 843-805-3030
kcartland@explorecharleston.com
Sales Market: Sports
How do I check the CACVB's group sales leads?
The CACVB Sales Department posts group  sales leads regularly to www.explorecharleston.com and they are available to all Travel Council investors. A weekly e-mail reminder is sent each Friday to encourage investors to check the leads online. This reminder is sent to our Travel Council investors, specifically, someone designated as the "leads receiver" for that investor.

To check the CACVB's  sales leads:
  • Visit www.explorecharleston.com/travel/.
  • Click on the login button on the right side of the page.
  • Enter your User Name and Password when prompted.
  • If you cannot log in, please contact Chimeca Everette to ensure that your Travel Council investment is current.
It is important to know that if you cannot get to the leads immediately, archived leads are available for up to four weeks on the CACVB web site.

Investors are asked to check and respond to our weekly leads and also to read the sales update that is included in this weekly email. The update will include information regarding anything that the Sales Department is currently working on, such as special packages and promotions, tradeshow recaps and follow-up opportunities, programs and tradeshows available for Travel Council investor participation, familiarizations tours and much more.

Group  sales leads are one of the biggest benefits of investing in Travel Council. Be sure to check the leads and respond weekly!

Any tips to effectively respond to the CACVB sales leads?
When responding to group sales leads, remember these important tips:
  • Keep responses short and to the point! Let the client know that you learned of their need through the CACVB. Always provide all of your contact information including your phone number, email address and a link to your web site.
  • Be sure your response is appropriate to the group planner's requests and interests. Be sure to respect any special requests made by the planner. (For example, if a planner only wishes to hear from a hotel, those should be the only responses they receive.)
  • Most leads will have a specific date when proposals are due. Be sure to respond promptly and prior to the deadline. Take note of when the actual event will occur. A planner with a short-term meeting will certainly be making decisions faster than one who is planning for several years in the future! In most cases, a meeting planner who is just beginning their search for an event location will only want to hear from hotels.
  • Creativity is key! The Charleston area has many charms and treasures that make our region unique. Take advantage of these assets and propose a memorable activity or event that the group would unable to experience in any other destination.
  • Follow up! If you tell a planner that you will contact them during a particular period, be sure to do so. Punctuality, attention to detail, accuracy and follow-through are all qualities a meeting planner is looking for in suppliers. Be ahead of the game by exhibiting those qualities from the onset!
  • Proposals for large leads, appropriate for the Charleston Area Convention Center, are collected by the CACVB so that they may be compiled into a special bid presentation. Individual hotel properties should not contact the event planner directly, but rather, contact Gloria Clarke, CACVB Sales Manager.

How can I become involved and work with the CACVB Sales Department?
Investors can best plug into the Sales Department by staying up to date on sales updates and leads sent out weekly. When there is an opportunity for investors to participate in a sales effort of any kind, this is where the information will be found. Tradeshows, packages and promotions, site visits, familiarization tours, industry updates, news, special programs and events, and numerous other opportunities to become involved with the sales department can be found weekly in the sales update.

Visitor Services

The Visitor Services Department staffs four visitor centers, and is dedicated to supplying Charleston area visitors with the best service and information possible. The department also processes all telephone, electronic and postal inquiries from prospective leisure visitors through the Visitor Inquiry Service (VIS) telephone center.
Walter McCants
Director of Visitor Services
Ph: 843-958-3621
wmccants@explorecharleston.com

Angelique Butler
Inquiry Service Manager
Ph: 843-805-3054
abutler@explorecharleston.com

Akilah Edwards
Office Manager
Ph: 843-805-3106
aedwards@explorecharleston.com

Julie Ann Oldham
Venue Sales Manager
Ph: 843-852-2965 or 843-849-8091
jaoldham@explorecharleston.com

Gabrielle Wright
Venue Services Coordinator
843-849-8091
gwright@explorecharleston.com

Visitor Center Staff - Main Contacts


Walter McCants
Director of Visitor Services
wmccants@explorecharleston.com

Nicky Steffel
Visitor Center Manager
nsteffel@explorecharleston.com

Jan Fox
Visitor Planner - Kiawah Island Visitor Center
jfox@explorecharleston.com

Nicole Neal
Visitor Planner - North Charleston Visitor Center
nneal@explorecharleston.com

Shelley Caraviello
Visitor Planner - Mount Pleasant Visitor Center
mcaraviello@explorecharleston.com

Randy Capps
Visitor Center Assistant Manager / Lowcountry Reservation Service Coordinator
rcapps@explorecharleston.com
Where are the official Charleston Area Visitor Centers and what hours are they open?

Charleston Visitor Center

375 Meeting Street
8:30 am - 5:00 pm
(Open daily, closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day)
Contact: Nicky Steffel or Kelley Williams

Kiawah Island Visitor Center

22 Beachwalker Drive
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
(Open Monday - Friday, closed on all Town of Kiawah Island holidays)
Contact: Jan Fox

Mount Pleasant Visitor Center

99 Harry M. Hallman, Jr. Boulevard
9:00 am - 5:00 pm
(Open daily, closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day)
Contact: Shelley Caraviello

North Charleston Visitor Center

4975-B Centre Point Drive
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
(Open regular hours Monday - Saturday and Sunday from Noon - 4:00 pm, closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day)
Contact: Nicole Neal

How is the Visitor Services staff trained to have such extensive knowledge of the Charleston area?
All Visitor Services employees participate in an initial training program that includes visiting area attractions, taking carriage, motorized and walking tours, and visiting accommodations and restaurants. Staff members gains individual visitor planning experience by working one-on-one with senior staffers. Each employee is knowledgeable about the various routes of DASH and the CARTA system, to encourage Charleston area guests to park their cars and use public transportation. Other areas of expertise include Ticket Tracker, our software designed to promote tour ticket sales and publications. Special events training and ticket sales training for events such as Southeastern Wildlife Exposition and the Taste of Charleston are on-going. Several members of the Visitor Services team are cross-trained so that their knowledge is shared among the four centers and the Visitor Inquiry Service telephone center.

My hotel has rooms available for tonight…can the CACVB help me sell them?
You bet! Same-day reservations can be booked through the Lowcountry Reservation Service (LRS). An inventory of available rooms is taken each morning in an attempt to promote our investors and increase area occupancy. Our LRS staff maintains regular, daily contact with area hotels so be sure to join the service so we can help with your unsold room inventory!

I understand that VIS operators assist an average of 22,000 calls per year at the CACVB. How does the CACVB respond to these calls?
Once an inquiry is captured and the visitor receives initial information from a VIS operator or from www.explorecharleston.com, the request is forwarded through the mail center process. The CACVB Mail Center is one of the largest and most sophisticated in Charleston County, processing over a half-million Charleston Area Visitors Guides annually! Many investors utilize the Brochure Service as an opportunity to include their brochure along with our Visitors Guide.

Auxillary Organizations

The CACVB works with several auxiliary organizations whose missions provide synergies with our own. These organizations exist to promote tourism, with a more niche visitor focus - golf-specific, sports-related, international travelers, cruise line industry, accommodations issues and restaurant / hospitality interests.

Charleston Golf Inc.
Contact: Michael Hutchison
Charleston Golf Inc. (CGI) is dedicated to promoting the Charleston area as a premier golf vacation destination. The organization produces and administers an extensive marketing and campaign comprised of print, broadcast and on-line advertising, participation in consumer golf shows, media relations and its web site www.CharlestonGolfGuide.com. CGI annually produces and distributes the Charleston Area Golf Guide (50M) as its response piece to the thousands of inquiries it generates and answers each year. In addition, CGI operates a sales and reservation call center which serves as an information point and is capable of confirming golf packages for groups and individuals. Their on-line quote application allows for instant bookings a well.

Charleston Area Sports Commission
Contact: Kathleen Cartland
Charleston Area Sports Commission (CASC) is the region's central sports development agency, providing assistance and support services to local and out-of-town event organizers. With the support of local municipalities, businesses and associations, the CASC has taken on a number of roles within the local sports community. CASC is a one-stop "referral" shop for all event organizers to successfully stage any type of sports event, whether it is a first time, homegrown competition or world-class, highly competitive-bid event. The ultimate goal is to ensure each event is a financial success for its beneficiaries and an economic benefit to the Charleston community.

Coastal South Carolina USA
Contact: Gary Edwards
Coastal South Carolina, USA is a regional tourism marketing organization with the primary mission of positively impacting the South Carolina economy through increased international visitation. A unique collaborative effort, Coastal promotes Charleston, Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach, catering mainly to European markets, whose travelers typically spend more than the average domestic visitor. A combination of advertising, media strategy and sales missions are used to attract international visitors to an extended vacation on the warm, sunny, hospitable coast of South Carolina.

Destination Charleston
Contact: Suzanne Wallace
Destination Charleston is a team whose goal is to promote the Charleston area to the Cruise industry. The Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Charleston County Aviation Authority and the South Carolina State Ports Authority work with visiting sales representatives of various cruise lines to increase their awareness of the Charleston area. Destination Charleston members attend the annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention in order to further these relationships. The group assists with port-of-calls by setting up a mini visitor center for cruise ship passengers, to address any embarkation / debarkation requests and to distribute the Official Charleston Area Visitors Guide.

Charleston Area Hospitality Association
Contact: Kara Wells
The Charleston Area Hospitality Association (CAHA) provides a networking, issues-oriented environment to influence public policy for Regular (hotel) members and their Allied (supporting) members. The organization's purpose is to ensure that CAHA and its members are represented in strategic community initiatives involving the hospitality industry's stakeholders including educational institutions and local and state governments. Other goals include: ensuring proper representation of the hospitality industry's viewpoint with officials; protecting and maintaining the welfare of the industry; sponsor and promote programs designed to improve the educational standards and business techniques in the industry.

Greater Charleston Restaurant Association
Contact: Jenny Peppler
The Charleston Restaurant Association (GCRA) serves as the voice of the Charleston Area foodservice industry on governmental and public relations issues. The organization provides programs that offer operational benefits, which creates opportunities for member involvement. Annual fundraising events such as the Oyster Festival and the Taste of Charleston enable GCRA to give back to the community that has so generously supported its members. To date, those fundraising efforts have enabled GCRA to donate over $1,000,000 to local charities.