IMAGINE THE WEALTH of knowledge and delightful surroundings that converge when a world class resort and its neighboring university join together to create a conference on sustainability. The resort benefits from the university’s research; the university benefits from the resort’s beauty and amenities. Conferees benefit by networking, sharing expertise and learning. It is a golden trifecta, and a win for all. We were delighted when Todd was invited to present the plenary opening and to be a panelist speaker on “Tourism with a Sustainable Mindset” for the inaugural Charles E. Fraser Sustainable Resort Development Conference.The conference, initiated and led by the University of South Carolina Beaufort (my alma mater), was hosted in the renowned Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island, SC.
THE NAME: The conference is so named for Charles E. Fraser. He was the first major land developer on Hilton Head Island in the 1950s. Hilton Head is the largest of the string of sea islands along the SC and GA coasts. Fraser became well known for his commitment to sustainable resort and community development…before anybody used the term sustainable. He made his mark by protecting stunning natural habitats and rare tracts of land in perpetuity. His ethos was to protect the best ecological sites before development plans were made. His environmental stewardship brought Charles success and renown. He and his wife, Mary, donated land generously to schools and churches to benefit the community. And Todd first used his expertise as economic researcher, planner and educator working with Fraser during this time. To this day, visitors and residents enjoy the vision of protecting the best before developing the rest. Over the decades, Sea Pines has risen to a world class resort in large part because of the Fraser vision. Learn more about Fraser watching this video by the Urban Land Institute (ULI):
THE UNIVERSITY: University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) is a baccalaureate member of the USC system. The main campus is in Columbia, SC. USCB enjoys the advantage of being located in Beaufort, SC, one of the most picturesque and historic towns on the SC coast. Joining its sister campus in the 1990s, the Hilton Head Gateway campus in Bluffton, SC is growing rapidly. Although the Lowcountry campuses offer many degree programs, this blog focuses on the two programs that we experienced at the conference.
The first is the USCB Center for Event Management and Hospitality Training. This unique program is a collaboration between the Town of Hilton Head Island and the University’s Hospitality Management program. Participating students have a living laboratory to learn the art and business of hospitality management. According to Select USA, this behemoth industry generated $1.5 trillion in economic output in the U.S. in 2012. This does not account for the global market, where many students opt to work. Aptly named, the Center for Event Management organized this conference.
We were equally impressed with the USCB Coastal Ecology program, a crucial educational and research area of the university. Students and professors in this program monitor the surrounding waters, wildlife, habitats, pollution runoff, and microbiology. These are critical to the health of the environment, as well as to the success of the tourism industry. As
witnessed during the BP oil spill in 2010, when the environment is harmed, tourists migrate to other destinations. As a research University, USCB is a leader in the burgeoning industry of sustainable tourism. University professors have received well over $3 million in grants and contract funding to study the condition of the Lowcountry environment, economy and social well-being. Their research studies have received awards by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as from the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control and SC Energy Office.