Awards Presented at Annual Tourism Conference

February 22

Hilton Head Island – Governor Henry McMaster presented tourism industry achievement awards Wednesday to two special events and a hospitality employee during the annual South Carolina Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Travel.

The prestigious Governor’s Cup was given to the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships held last summer in Rock Hill.  The cycling event “brought the world to South Carolina’s door,” as more than 3,700 of the sport’s highest performing riders traveled from 48 countries to compete in Rock Hill. Held at the city’s BMX Supercross Track, the championship event attracted nearly 20,000 people with an estimated cumulative attendance of 55,000 over six days.

Rock Hill reports a direct economic impact of more than $19.2 million, with more than 27,000 hotel room nights sold. The online viewing audience for the championships extended around the world, with more than 513,000 webcast views, making it the highest viewed challenge class races in BMX World Championship history.

“We appreciate the recognition for the event, but we also appreciate the support of our partners – the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, the Olde English District Tourism Commission, the Rock Hill / York County Convention and Visitors Bureau and our community who helped make the event a success,” said John Taylor, Director of the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department for the city of Rock Hill, and hosts of the championships.

The Bundy award, which recognizes an outstanding local or regional program that helps extend the full benefits of tourism to the state’s rural areas, was given to Brookgreen Gardens for its “Nights of a Thousand Candles” annual holiday event. In November and December, the sculpture garden and arboretum come to life with more than 5,500 hand-lit candles and countless sparkling lights. The event typically attracts visitors from all 50 states and international visitors from Canada, the UK, Germany, Spain, South Africa and Brazil. Overall attendance for 2017 topped 53,000, with more than half coming from outside the local area.

The event has even become a platform for special occasions. Last year, more than 25 marriage proposals occurred during Nights of a Thousand Candles, including a proposal flash mob.

Much of its success has been driven by innovative marketing efforts such as weekly Facebook Live events through which viewers could see the garden prepare for their holiday tradition. Brookgreen also implemented a consignment program that provided discounted tickets to local accommodations for their guests and to a local restaurant to accompany a special meal promotion.

“We are honored to receive this recognition for our signature event at Brookgreen,” said Page Kiniry, President and CEO of Brookgreen Gardens. “The staff and volunteers dedicate their creativity and hard work to showcase the unique beauty of the gardens and ‘illuminate’ the vision of the Huntingtons for thousands of guests from around the country.”

The Hospitality Employee of the Year is Maribeth LaMuraglia, Assistant General Manager of Dagwood’s Deli and Sports Bar in Surfside Beach.

Maribeth’s coworkers praise her for her dependability, the superior quality of her work, her warm personality and the hospitality she extends to everyone. She’s been described by Dagwood’s general manager as the type of manager that most companies can only dream about. One longtime customer said, “Maribeth strives to make every customer feel at home when they come to Dagwood’s. If I owned a business, she would be my first hire.”

Maribeth demonstrates her compassion for others and dedication to her community through volunteer activities, which range from volunteering for Fostering Hope, to rallying support for Hurricane Relief Efforts, the American Red Cross and Dagwood’s annual charity golf tournament.

“We are proud and lucky to have someone like Maribeth working diligently in the South Carolina tourism industry,” said Duane Parrish, Director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.

Also recognized at the conference was Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, for lifetime achievements in tourism. He was given the Fred P. Brinkman Award by the South Carolina Travel and Tourism Coalition.

The Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Travel is held every winter in South Carolina as an opportunity for industry leaders to network, collaborate and leverage opportunities to grow tourism. For more information, contact Dawn Dawson-House at ddawson@scprt.com or 803-734-1779.

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