Wednesday, November 25, 2015

El Niño, a friend to the ski industry!

I will be heading up to the Canadian Rockies soon to promote my new book ‘Winter Sport Tourism’, and it is great to hear about all the early-season snow in North American ski resorts – especially after such a dry winter last year for ski areas in the West. Some say this is due to El Niño, which often brings higher than average snowfall to the Rockies, but regardless of the reason, skiers – and those that make a living out of the ski industry - are rubbing their hands in delight. Early season snow conditions and skier perception of these conditions hugely influence the momentum and success of the overall season. Demand is often the greatest at this time (over the New Year period, in particular), so poor snow conditions can be expensive for resorts; the ski industry in the U.S. lost over $1 billion in aggregate revenue because of poor snow seasons between 2000 and 2010. Skiers and snowboarders can be a fickle bunch – it is hard enough to tempt them to get up to the mountains in the first place. In fact, in America only 4.3% of the population takes to the mountains each winter. Compare this to the percentages in Switzerland (37%), Austria (36%) and Norway (25%). Easily the most important factor for skiers/snowboarders is the quality of snow conditions, with more than eight in 10 skiers indicating that this is extremely important or important to them in terms of destination selection. So El Niño – bring it on!!!

If you would like more information on the book Winter Sport Tourism please click here

To celebrate all the fresh snow, the publishers are offering a special 15% discount on purchase, using code SNOW15 at checkout!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

You’ve seen the film - now visit the set!

Have you ever watched a movie and wondered: “Where did they film that?” or thought: “I know that place - I’ve been there before.” Increasingly, movies and television shows are becoming a source of inspiration for travel. The phenomenon of Harry Potter – or ‘Pottermania’ - had huge domestic and international repercussions for tourism in the U.K. Likewise, Lord of the Rings was so successful for New Zealand that destination marketers branded the country as ‘Home of Middle Earth.’ To learn more about this fascinating topic, don’t miss next week’s Science Café feature presenter, Dr. Simon Hudson. Hudson is one of the world’s leading experts in film tourism, and in this informative, but entertaining presentation, he will explain the reasons behind the growth of the pop-culture phenomenon. He will show how some destinations – including the U.S – are working closely with the film industry to leverage the benefits of ‘destination placement’ – even to the extent of funding television shows and big-box movies to attract tourists. So join Dr. Hudson on October the 20th at 6pm in the relaxing atmosphere of the Speakeasy bar, located at 711 Saluda Avenue Columbia, SC 29205.  

For more information on this free event and to register please click on:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dr. Cardenas to Keynote International Conference


Dr. Cardenas has been chosen to deliver the keynote address at the 5th annual International Congress on Competitive Development being held in Colombia, South America on October 7th-9th, 2015. Dr. Cardenas will discuss innovative approaches to sustainable tourism development, stakeholders and trust. Congratulations Dr. Cardenas on this honor!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Dr. Hudson chosen as featured speaker at African-American Tourism Conference

Don't miss Dr. Hudson's presentation on the current state of African-American tourism in South Carolina and the unique economic and cultural impact potential of future growth in this industry on the state. Dr. Hudson will present at this forum on September 26th, 2015 in beautiful Charleston, SC. To learn more and to register go to: .

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Center Welcomes Our Newest PhD Student: Jing Li

The SmartState Center is pleased to announce the arrival of our newest PhD student,  Jing Li. Jing's primary areas of interest are in destination branding and marketing, tourist behavior and social media. Prior to enrolling at USC, she received her B.S. degree in accounting and M.S. degree in tourism management from Shandong University, China. She previously worked as an intern in Dahua Tourism Consulting Company. She also worked in tourism planning of Lanzhou Geological Park and other rural tourism planning projects of the Shandong Province. During her free time, Jing likes swimming, playing badminton and traveling. Welcome Jing!

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Blurring of Business and Leisure Travel

The lines between business and leisure travel are becoming increasingly blurred. Fueled by the proliferation of mobile devices and the ability to stay connected, over half of business travelers now extend their business trips into leisure trips. This presents new opportunities for tourism and hospitality providers, but they need to configure their services to be flexible. This new article, written by Simon Hudson and published in Hotel Business Review, explains how hotels around the world are responding to this new generation of hyper-connected travelers who travel both for business and leisure. The full article can be found at:

Friday, August 14, 2015

SC tourism about more than beaches and golf!

It is true that SC is known for its pristine beaches and world class golf courses, but locals and tourists alike are beginning to recognize that SC has so much more to offer the visitor. Just following the 2nd Annual International Executive  Forum on Tourism Innovation and Entrepreneurship, co-hosted by USC, University of Aruba  and Armistad,  an article was published in the State Newspaper that recognizes these emerging opportunities in the tourism industry, especially the opportunity to rebuild SC's image with the removal of the confederate flag. The timing is right for positive change and ripe with the opportunities to build new tourism products in the state. For more, visit this link:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

In January 2016, I will be setting sail around the world as part of the faculty for Semester at Sea, a shipboard campus that has a mission to ‘integrate multiple-country study, interdisciplinary coursework, and hands-on field experiences for meaningful engagement in the global community.’ I was lucky enough to teach on a Semester at Sea voyage back in 2006, and it’s an old cliché but it really was a life-changing experience. You can join me next year as a student or a ‘life-long learner’ as we visit 10 different countries including Japan, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, India and South Africa. For more information, go to:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hats off to another bright young intern, Alex Sizemore

On July 17th, 2015, Alex Sizemore, rising senior at the SC Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics, presented a research poster titled “African American Tourism Patterns and Marketing Ethnically Focused Tourism in South Carolina.” Alex spent this summer conducting research on current trends and patterns within the African American tourism sector and identifying appropriate research methods to further explore the sector for the purposes of promoting quality of experiences while optimizing the economic impact. Alex’s research will contribute to the research base for an upcoming project schedule to launch in the fall of 2015, that shares the same focus. Great job, Alex!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Is South Carolina Retirement Friendly? New award hopes to find out.

Is South Carolina retirement friendly? The Center has been awarded a grant by the Economic Development Administration to explore that question and take it a step further by providing recommendations to strengthen South Carolina's brand as a competitive retirement destination. The results of this project will lead to a marketing plan to help rural counties state wide to better strategize and position themselves to utilize their resources effectively to attract migrating retirees. This year long project is scheduled to begin in August 2015.

Monday, June 29, 2015

New study finds social media engagement leads to strong brands

A new piece of research, conducted by Simon Hudson and three researchers from the Moore School of Business, has found strong support for the use of social media in strengthening relationships between consumers and brands. The paper, just accepted for publication in the International Journal of Research in Marketing, describes how the authors conducted three studies to explore how individual and national differences influence the relationship between social media use and customer brand relationships. The first study surveyed customers in France, the U.K. and U.S. and compared those who engage with their favorite brands via social media with those who do not. The findings indicated that social media use was positively related with brand relationship quality and the effect was more pronounced with high anthropomorphism perceptions (the extent to which consumers’ associate human characteristics with brands). Two subsequent experiments further validated these findings and confirmed that cultural differences, specifically uncertainty avoidance, moderated these results. The results offer cross-national support for the proposition that engaging customers via social media is associated with higher consumer-brand relationships and word of mouth communications particularly when consumers anthropomorphize the brand they engage with. The paper will appear early next year in special issue of the journal called ‘Branding in a Digitally Empowering World’.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Accessible Hotels, Nordic-style

A new article written by Simon Hudson in Hotel Business Review discusses the growing market for accessible tourism and the opportunity it represents for the hotel sector. The article focuses on one hotel chain in particular – Scandic - that has positioned itself as a world leader in accommodating visitors with disabilities. With 230 hotels spread across Europe, Scandic is the Nordic region’s leading hotel chain. The policies dedicated to accessibility were initiated by Magnus Berglund, pictured above, who was originally a cook with the hotel group. Due to a muscle disease, Berglund was on sick leave for five years. When he was able to start work again, he contacted his former employer with his ideas on how the hotel chain could increase accessibility and use it to gain competitive advantage. In 2003, Berglund, who walks with the help of a special cane and travels with a rehab dog, was appointed Accessibility Director for Scandic, reporting directly to the Group Executive Committee. “Guests with special needs are a growing market due to the population getting older,” says Berglund. “This will continue as disabilities are no longer seen as a hindrance that stops people from traveling. At Scandic we work hard to make all our hotels more accessible. It is not always about investing in the building – many times it is the smallest things that make a difference.” The full articles can be found at:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Night train to Lisbon

Simon Hudson was in Lisbon last week speaking to students at the Universidade Europeia about film tourism, and how movies – such as Night Train to Lisbon, starring Jeremy Irons – can have a very positive influence on a destination’s image. Dr. Hudson’s lecture was part of a day-long seminar organized by the university for the Tourism Management PhD program. Other speakers included Miguel Moital from Bournemouth University, Alan Fyall from University of central Florida, and Carlos Costa, Universidade de Aveiro.

Monday, June 8, 2015

World's Best Golf Clubhouses

Our research center in South Carolina signed a memorandum of understanding recently with Universidade Europeia in Portugal, with the intention of collaborating on various industry-related projects. One thing the two regions have in common is the critical importance of golf to the tourism industry, so I was particularly pleased to see both are represented in Golf Inc. Magazine’s ‘Clubhouse of the Year’ for 2014-2015. Congratulations to Plantation Golf Club at Sea Pines Resort Hilton Head for taking top spot, but I was fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of Portugal’s third-place winner Espiche Golf Club this week, so I thought I would drop in and chat to owner Peter Thornton and General Manager Luis Rocha to find out what it takes to be on this prestigious list of winners. Espiche Golf is located in an Ecological Reserve just outside Lagos in the Western Algarve and includes an 18-hole course that opened in 2012 and a stunning new clubhouse. Occupying the highest point of the Espiche property, surrounded on all sides by the golf course, the clubhouse is built into the hillside on the site of an old farmhouse, and is beautifully and sensitively integrated into the existing landscape. Stone from the original building has been used in the lower walls of the outer structure to maintain the sense of history, and solar panels, hidden within the roof design, ensure a state of the art approach to sustainability. Architect Nadine Berger’s unique and striking design provides 360 degree views from terraces and lounges on two levels, an informal restaurant and bar area, separate lounge, a relaxing inner patio garden, changing rooms, a golf shop and reception area. I will be writing more about Espiche for my new tourism marketing book, but you will see from the photos, this is a unique and special attraction! More at

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Appealing to Tourists via Branded Entertainment

A new article by Simon Hudson takes a closer look at the use of branded entertainment by destinations, using the ‘Brand USA’ campaign as a case study. The article, published online first with the Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing (see link below), was co-authored with Vincent Tung, an assistant professor at Hong Kong Poly. Brand USA, the destination marketing organization for the United States, used three media platforms to promote the country, partnering with television, film, and digital content producers to present engaging stories that would attract international tourists. In one of the initiatives they launched a website in London accepting confidential television ideas from producers. Following an external committee selection, entries were shortlisted to three, and the first program to be produced was Extreme Frontiers: USA, which was broadcast in the UK on Channel Five late in 2013. Produced by director Russ Malkin, owner of Big Earth, the four-part series followed well-known thrill-seeker and adventurer Charley Boorman, whose expedition began in Hawaii before he and Malkin travelled over 8,000 miles across 22 states. Brand USA developed a dedicated web page on their consumer website ( for the show featuring video excerpts from the series, photographs, and links to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. On the website were also links to travel information (including an interesting 'Tune Your Trip’ site where visitors could customize a trip to the US) and a link to the show’s own website. The program was sold globally and appeared in over 90 territories, but as a result of the program being broadcast in the UK alone, EagleRider created an, ‘Extreme Frontiers Guided Tour’, of which they have already sold 60 packages. EagleRider was an official sponsor of the show, giving away an all-inclusive guided motorcycle tour via a sweepstakes competition to kick-off their partnership with Brand USA and Extreme Frontiers. For the full article, go to:

Monday, June 1, 2015

Look for Winter Sport Tourism in September 2015

Simon Hudson has just submitted his latest manuscript to his publisher in London. The book, called Winter Sport Tourism: Working in Winter Wonderlands, will be published by Goodfellow in September. The new text will be of great interest to students, researchers, and practitioners – particularly those working in the ski industry. There are 12 chapters in the book, with each chapter following the theme of ‘working in winter wonderlands’ – telling the story of the industry through the eyes of those that shape it. Chapter 1 begins by plotting the evolution of winter sport tourism, Chapter 2 focuses on the winter sport tourism product and Chapter 3 is dedicated to understanding the consumer. Chapter 4 explores design and planning for winter sports resorts while Chapter 5 looks at management and operations, both on- and off-mountain, and is followed by Chapter 6 that is dedicated to marketing. Chapter 7 emphasizes the importance of public relations and media in the industry, and Chapter 8 focuses on the impact of technology on communications, operations, and clothing and equipment. Chapter 9 is dedicated to events in the winter sports industry looking at growth and different types, and the planning, marketing and leveraging of events. Chapter 10 is an important one, focusing on the economic, social and environmental impacts of winter sport tourism, and this is followed by Chapter 11 that discusses customer service and how destinations can develop a service culture. Finally, Chapter 12 looks towards the future for the ski industry, focusing on the key consumer trends influencing winter sport tourism. More information about the upcoming book can be found at:

Monday, May 25, 2015

What is your favorite cinematic destination?

Simon Hudson was recently asked by USA Today to choose 20 destinations where TV shows and movies play a major role in the tourist scene. Along with fellow expert Stefan Roesch from Germany, Hudson devised a list of locations that have benefited from the growing phenomenon of film tourism. Readers of USA Today now have until 8 June to vote on their favorite. The list includes Dubrovnik, Croatia (Game of Thrones), Albuquerque (Breaking Bad), Scotland (Braveheart) Berkshire, England (Downton Abbey), New Zealand (Lord of the Rings), and Petra Jordan (Indiana Jones). The current leaderboard has New Zealand in first place, followed by Petra and then Scotland. More information on the competition and the 20 destinations can be found at:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dr. Hudson Kicks Off T-Forum

Simon Hudson was a keynote speaker earlier this month at the inaugural t-FORUM Global Conference called Tourism Intelligence in Action. The conference was held in the beautiful old town of Naples, Italy from May 4th-7th,2015
The forum was co-organized and supported by the Institute for Research on Innovation and Services for Development of the National Research Council (IRISS - CNR). Dr. Hudson was asked to speak about the SmartState program, and his efforts in South Carolina to conduct applied and commercially relevant research in order to improve the competitiveness of the state as a tourism destination. Over 200 delegates from academia and industry attended the conference.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Don't Miss this Event!

This forum is bound to interest and enlighten academics, industry leaders and entrepreneurs alike. Confirmed speakers include a former Shark Tank contestant, a former Survivor contestant, highly impressive USC alumni that have transformed their education into booming hospitality businesses, international economic development and technology experts and companies that have realized the value of incubation, all presented in an interactive and fun environment. Register today at

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dr. Cardenas Making a Big Splash in Quito, Ecuador

Dr. David Cardenas was invited to deliver a feature presentation at the 2015 Ecotourism and Sustainability Conference in Quito, Ecuador held from April 27th-30th, 2015. The conference was sponsored by the International Ecotourism Society (Ties) who leads the efforts to make tourism a viable tool for conservation, protection of bio-cultural diversity, and sustainable community development. This conference aims to promote ecotourism and sustainable tourism globally. Dr. Cardenas was among a distinguished group of academics and industry experts who were asked to present. Dr. Cardenas presented a riveting talk titled, "A stakeholder Approach to Sustainable Place Branding: It Comes from the Heart." His presentation demonstrated his true passion for sustainable tourism development and he used his experience from his work with the Center team on the branding of Bluffton, South Carolina project to demonstrate the adoption of sustainable tourism practice in destination the branding development process.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

New report published by the SmartState team: “An Assessment of Tourism Development Along the Santee Cooper Waterway”

The SmartState team has just finished a comprehensive study looking at potential tourism development along the Santee Cooper waterway. The study, funded by Santee Cooper, Santee Cooper Country, and the SmartState Center, included focus group sessions with area stakeholders, an economic impact analysis, and surveys of residents and visitors. We also visited several waterways in the U.S. and Europe to make observations, interview key stakeholders, and obtain the most up-to-date information regarding tourism infrastructure and facilities on and around waterways. As a result of the nine-month study, we made a number of recommendations. Attracting investment for new infrastructure and product development will be paramount, and new tourism-related activities on the water should be developed alongside activities on land; people are particularly attracted to cycling and walking paths alongside waterways. Santee and Moncks Corner in particular are well positioned for new infrastructure, but any development should go hand-in-hand with careful consideration and planning with respect to protecting and preserving the natural resources of the waterways and the ecosystem of the surrounding region. Systems and programs should also be created to encourage, educate and empower community members in this development. Further, Santee Cooper has a relatively weak brand, so a comprehensive branding exercise is recommended, followed by consistency in communicating the new brand identity to potential visitors, residents, and key stakeholders within the region. Finally there is clearly a need for a comprehensive tourism/hospitality and customer service training program tailored to the Santee Cooper region. The full report can be downloaded at:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cheers to the Center

Yesterday was a proud day for the SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development. Karen Thal, the first PhD candidate to enter the Center’s PhD program has defended her thesis. Karen came to the Center in 2012 from the College of Charleston as a PhD candidate. Her research focus has been on wellness tourism combined with self-determination theory. Today she successfully defended her thesis on ‘How wellness facilities contribute to wellbeing.’ Congratulations Karen! But there’s more to celebrate. Director and endowed chair, Dr. Simon Hudson, received the distinguished Patricia G. Moody Researcher of the Year award. This award recognizes faculty who have excelled in their research discipline and have substantively contributed to the research base. Way to go, Dr. Hudson!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Royal Green Farms Grand Opening

Dr. Hudson attended the Grand Opening and ceremonial ribbon cutting for Royal Greens Farm in Ridgeway, South Carolina on March 19th, 2015. Royal Greens is the largest indoor, wholesale hydroponic farm in South Carolina. Royal Greens has evolved from Jah Roots, the first incubator company supported by the SmartState Center. Royal Greens will produce a variety of specialty lettuce mixes, kales, herbs and tomatoes. The site will also house a public retail section that will offer locally produced jams, jellies, relishes and promote local art. Royal Greens promises to make a positive impact on the community by creating approximately 500 jobs and contributing to the revitalization of downtown Ridgeway. For more information about Royal Green, visit their website at:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Keeping Hospitality in the Family!

Simon received a very special guest last week, when his second cousin, Karl Hudson, dropped in to see him on campus. The two didn’t know each other existed until a few years ago. Karl – apart from being a top hotel executive – is a keen genealogist, and found Simon as he researched the family tree. Karl is currently Marriot’s Area Vice President for Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Japan. He speaks five languages including Mandarin, so he was very comfortable conversing with the Center’s Associates, Fang Meng and Kevin So. He was down in Florida with other Marriott leaders to explore the DNA of innovation. Coincidentally, innovation is the topic of the conference that the SmartState Center will be putting on in August. Partners for the conference are the International Institute for Foodservice Research and Education, the University of Aruba – and Marriott! Watch this space for more details.

Monday, February 2, 2015

SmartState team wins new grant!

The SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism is delighted to announce the winning of a new $38,200 grant from the City of Columbia to examine the effectiveness of the use of hospitality tax (H-tax) dollars. The City has been collecting and allocating H-tax dollars for eleven years, generated by a 2% tax on prepared food and beverages sold in the city. Collections are used to promote tourism to help attract visitors to the region with the goal of increasing the region’s economic base. In 2014-2015, 96 organizations received grants ranging from between $2,000 to $280,000 for a total of $2.37m. One of those recipients was the Auntie Karen Foundation who will be bringing in 10-time GRAMMY Award-winner Chaka Khan to Columbia on February 20th at the Koger Center (see picture above). The SmartState Center has been engaged by the council to serve as an impartial, external body to provide assessment and research services that will ultimately result in the development of an assessment tool to assist the H-Tax Committee in efficiently and effectively evaluating organizations and events that receive H-tax funding. The SmartState team will also provide recommendations to the council on tangible ways to improve the H-Tax process to optimize the use of funds to both improve the quality of life of the community, and to increase revenue by attracting additional visitors to Columbia.

Friday, January 23, 2015

“The worst mistake a business can make is to over-promise and under-deliver”

A major cause of poorly perceived service is the difference between what a firm promises about a service, and what it actually delivers. To avoid broken promises companies must manage all communications to customers, so that inflated promises do not lead to overly high expectations. This difference between what is promised and what is delivered can cause customer frustration, perhaps driving the customer to the competition. As Jim Knight, Senior Director of Training for Hard Rock International says: “the worst mistake a business can make is to over-promise and under-deliver”. Researchers suggest that there are four strategies that are effective in managing service promises: creating effective advertising; coordinating external communication; making realistic promises; and offering service guarantees. All these strategies are discussed in detail in a new article written by Dr. Hudson and published in Hotel Business Review:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New report from SmartState Center focuses on the Pee Dee region of South Carolina

The Pee Dee region of South Carolina is the subject of the latest published report from the SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism. In 2014, the SmartState team received funding from the Economic Development Administration to develop a brand identity for the region in order to raise awareness of the area as a tourism destination. After in-depth consumer research, the team concluded that brand communications for the Pee Dee should be built around the following positioning statement: The Pee Dee region of South Carolina is a cornucopia of unique farming communities, local foods, open spaces, nature, and rivers. Recreation opportunities are abundant, so bring your fishing rod, kayak, and golf clubs. You are going to have fun! The team then handed over their research to South Carolina National Heritage Corridor to create brand communications around this positioning statement. Marketers from the National Heritage Corridor consequently developed a new logo for the region – Naturally Carolina – along with marketing and advertising plans for tourism promotion in the region and travel itinerary package recommendations. The project showed the importance of using place brand building theory to understand a place’s core values and to map out a vision for the future, and revealed an identity that is strongly linked to the rural nature of the region and its associated outdoor activities. Of course, consistency in communicating the brand identity to potential visitors is critical for ensuring the brand’s success in the long-term, and the Center also recommends that marketers in the Pee Dee region embark on an internal marketing campaign in order to raise awareness and strengthen the Pee Dee brand image amongst residents. The full report can be downloaded at: