Annual SC Tourism Conference Opens with Messages of Optimism and Resilience

February 15, 2021

Columbia, S.C. – After a challenging year, SC Governor Henry McMaster and SC Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT) Director Duane Parrish opened the 56th annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Travel with words of hope.

A socially-distanced audience of state tourism leaders and hospitality professionals were in attendance Monday, February 15 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center for their opening remarks and industry awards presentation.

Governor McMaster highlighted the importance of the tourism industry to South Carolina’s economy. He also thanked industry leaders for their work making South Carolina a safe place for residents and visitors in light of the challenges of COVID-19.

“We slowed down, but we didn’t shut down,” said Governor McMaster. “We’ve never had anything like this pandemic, but we’re coming out of it quicker and better than probably anybody in the country and that is because of you – because of the people in our state.”

SCPRT Director Parrish gave his annual address on the state of tourism in South Carolina. He focused on the highlights of what was a dark year – which included a boom for the state’s golf industry, record visitation at state parks, and successful virtual events that helped audiences discover South Carolina from the comfort of home.

He explained that to support the industry in light of the challenges of COVID-19, SCPRT continued “striving towards the same goals we’ve always had – to put heads in beds, feet on fairways, and people in parks – but we also wanted to see masks on many,” said Parrish. “We wanted to encourage consumers to continue practicing the safety precautions that help keep both us and them as safe as possible while they’re traveling in our great state.”

Director Parrish ended his address with a list of things to look forward to in 2021 – including the continued partnership with Darius Rucker as South Carolina’s tourism ambassador; once again hosting two races at Darlington Speedway; the return of the RBC Heritage and PGA Championship to South Carolina; and the return of the Netflix hit series Outer Banks.

He also thanked industry partners for their work and resilience in 2020.

“As I’ve expressed in the aftermath of hurricanes and other natural disasters, I am proud to be a part of our state’s tourism industry,” said Parrish. “I am proud of the way you always come together during times of hardship to help one another for the common good. I am proud of all that we have accomplished as an industry – all that we continue to accomplish despite challenges and setbacks.”

The opening session ended with the conference’s annual awards presentation. In light of the unique year for the industry, conference organizers recognized the Hospitality Employee of the Year and four Community Award winners. The Community Award was brand new for 2021 to highlight industry professionals who were nominated by their peers for going above and beyond to serve their customers and communities in 2020. Award winners included:

  • Hospitality Employee of the Year – Buddy Brewer, a maintenance technician at the Beaufort Inn and Quality Inn Hotels in Beaufort
  • Community Award – Carl Sobocinski, owner of Table 301 Restaurant Group in Greenville
  • Community Award – Teddy Milner, owner of It’s All Good restaurant in Aiken
  • Community Award – Hollow Creek Distillery in Leesville
  • Community Award – The Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Minor League Baseball team in Myrtle Beach

The conference will continue through Tuesday with keynote speakers offering expert insight on building a brand and creative marketing in light of the pandemic. All attendees are required to wear masks and socially distance. To limit contact and keep participants safe, tours, receptions and other networking events that are normally a part of this annual conference have been cancelled this year.

Learn more about the South Carolina Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Travel at

For more information, contact Sam Queen at or 803-767-3568.


Need more information?   Sam Queen
Director of Corporate Communications
SC Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism
1205 Pendleton Street, Columbia, SC 29201
| 803-734-1779
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