WHO WE ARE
The Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, dba Explore Charleston, is organized as a 501-C-6 not-for-profit destination marketing organization (DMO). DMOs are organizations charged with representing a destination and supporting the long-term development of communities through sustainable tourism marketing and management strategies.
It is the primary purpose of Explore Charleston to market the greater Charleston area as an overnight destination. This mindset resulted in 7.43 million visitors, job earnings of over $3.43 billion, and an economic impact of over $9.7 billion for the region in 2019.
Explore Charleston is also a regional tourism marketing organization and represents ten different funding governments located in Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley Counties, South Carolina. Funding for Explore Charleston is provided by public and private sources including membership dues, accommodations taxes, programs revenue, and matching grants.
Explore Charleston maintains a full time staff of professionals who coordinate marketing, media, communications, sales, and visitor service activities.
The Lowcountry Hospitality Association, Charleston & Resort Islands Golf, and the Charleston Area Sports Commission are affiliate organizations that each operate under the umbrella of Explore Charleston. Each group has independent boards, committees, and/or task forces and budgets.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Statement and Commitment
As the region’s destination marketing 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 (DEI). Every organization and individual plays a role. A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) requires all of us to display empathy, respect and integrity. Discrimination is an undeniable legacy of our painful local and national 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. As the region’s destination marketing organization, Explore Charleston is steadfast in our desire to create a more informed, just and equitable community as we share 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.
Recent events across our country have encouraged us to reflect and evaluate our existing and future DEI efforts. 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.
- Promote the region as an inviting, inclusive destination.
- 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.
- Enrich marketing efforts to connect most effectively and authentically with visitors
- Support minority-led businesses that can benefit from tourism.
- Build the cultural competence of internal and external audiences with the goal of cultural proficiency.
- Evaluate opportunities to recruit and develop individuals from diverse backgrounds for staff, leadership, and governance opportunities.
- Lead workforce development programs to ensure the Greater Charleston community is more fully represented in the industry at all levels.
HOW EXPLORE CHARLESTON IS GOVERNED
Explore Charleston’s strategic plan, program of work, and finances are overseen by the Board of Governors, which consists of industry representatives and elected officials from each funding government.
A NOTE FROM OUR CHAIRMAN
It is indeed an honor to be appointed as your chairman just as our industry is emerging from its most challenging year on record. As a small business owner, I’m relieved to see our industry, our families, and our lives begin returning to normal. After more than a year of adapting and improvising just to keep our businesses open, it's tremendously satisfying to see how quickly visitors have returned to the Charleston region! The much anticipated pent-up leisure demand has exceeded even our most optimistic expectations. We have also had the added benefit of seeing our air service capacity return and actually expand beyond pre-pandemic levels with the launch of Breeze Airways, and the addition of new routes, increased frequency, and larger aircraft from our legacy carriers.
Our recovery is not complete, and now is not the time to simply rest on our laurels. Business and group travel have yet to fully recover, and both are essential to a robust and sustainable visitor industry. Equally important, we must do everything in our power to maintain and enhance the Charleston area’s reputation as a hospitable, welcoming, and truly unforgettable destination.
It also means we need to redouble our efforts to recruit, train, and mentor our employees. We need to position the hospitality industry as an appealing option for those who truly have a knack for pleasing people. We also need to reaffirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion as a tangible, visible, and beneficial aspect of our industry. Our inaugural ICEP program for minority college students is a great example of our industry putting significant resources towards developing the future leaders of our industry.
We have a lot to be thankful for, and plenty yet to accomplish. Working together with a commitment to excellence will assure our continued success and lead to an even brighter future.
I look forward to working with each of you to make our industry the very best it can be.
Chairman, Explore Charleston Board of Governors
- Helen T. Hill, CEO [email protected]
- Perrin Lawson, Vice President of Business Development [email protected]
- Laurie Lynn Smith, Vice President of Operations/COO [email protected]
- Doug Warner, Vice President of Media & Innovation Development [email protected]
- Catherine Dority, Director of Marketing [email protected]
- Chris Campbell, Director of Communications & Strategic Planning [email protected]
- Chris Hendrix, Director of Sales [email protected]
- Kreig Brugler, Director of Finance [email protected]
- Annie McEwen, Director of Membership Development [email protected]
- Andy Rankin, Director of Investor Relations [email protected]
- Marc Gibson, Director of Inclusion & Engagement [email protected]
- Amy Hutto, Director of Human Resources [email protected]
- Darby Keene, IT Director [email protected]
EXPLORE CHARLESTON’S AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS
Lowcountry Hospitality Association (LHA)
Remaining one of the top destinations in the world is dependent on a skilled and diverse workforce, and the opportunity for hospitality-related businesses to function at peak efficiency and effectiveness. LHA represents the industry in legislative affairs and in business and education opportunities by providing a unified industry voice.
LHA’s goals include:
- Providing guidance regarding the numerous changes in industry regulations.
- Promoting member establishments.
- Organizing and marketing Charleston Restaurant Week each September and January.
- Assisting in workforce development initiatives designed to help the industry meet its staffing needs.
- Advocating for and increasing camaraderie within the hospitality community.
- Public policy initiatives aimed at strengthening the industry
- Annual scholarships are presented to students enrolled in hospitality and culinary programs at the College of Charleston and The Culinary Institute of Charleston.
Jill Maynard, Executive Director [email protected]
Charleston Area Sports Commission
The Charleston Area Sports Commission is the region’s central sports development agency and markets the area as a premier destination for events that generate overnight visitation by participants and spectators. Staff tracks over 400 sports events a year and provides assistance to over 50 local and out-of-town sports event organizers annually. The commission’s ultimate goal is to ensure that each event is a success for its organizers, and an economic benefit for the Charleston community.
Key objectives include:
- Identify non-peak periods for venues, hotels, etc. and attract specific events.
- Work alongside prestigious right-holders to ensure their success in the Charleston market during their event planning stage.
- Develop sports travel themes to increase the market reach for potential attendees and to extend their stay.
- Promote Travel Council members’ hospitality services to attendees visiting the area for annual events.
Kathleen Cartland, Executive Director, [email protected]