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Duane Parrish Likes the Leverage Travel South USA Creates

Duane Parrish knows he has a lot to sell in South Carolina. Charleston is an international destination, and Condé Nast’s readers named it their favorite city in America in 2014. Kiawah won international acclaim when Rory McIlroy won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Ocean Course in 2012 and has since been named the No. 1 island in North America by Condé Nast. Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach have been international golf destinations for decades.

Parrish, the current chairman for Travel South USA, also knows a good deal when he sees one. As director for South Carolina’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, he is quick to point out how his state’s participation in Travel South USA creates marketing and sales opportunities that they couldn’t begin to do as inexpensively on their own.

“The Travel South International Showcase is a huge success for us,” he said. “We’ll have 120 international tour operators in New Orleans [the meeting was held at press time in December 2014]. That’s significant for all of us. I can assure you that South Carolina cannot get face to face with a group like that any cheaper. The tour operator attendance has grown from 80 two years ago to 120 in New Orleans.”

Parrish’s office also participates in a big way in the Travel South Ad Challenge program that brings major consumer media together to pitch campaigns to its 12 member states.

“We’ve saved a lot of advertising dollars through Ad Challenge the past few years,” said Parrish. “We invite major magazines to bring us their most creative pitches and their best rates, and our states attend to buy media right there. Each state that attends agrees to spend at least $50,000 at Ad Challenge, so the media know there are major budgets on the table. They come in with some great packages for us. South Carolina has spent over $100,000 there the past two years.

“That’s two great examples of how Travel South USA offers its states the biggest bang for their buck,” said Parrish. “These are things most of us couldn’t do otherwise. In fact, right now, as we speak, my office is at World Travel Market in London with a much bigger presence than we could have on our own because we’re attending as part of Travel South USA.”

Parrish is also very pleased with how Travel South USA has stepped up and become a major participant internationally with Brand USA.

“Ever since Chris Thompson’s appointment to head Brand USA, things have begun to fall into place,” he said. “As my former counterpart in Florida, Chris understands what we do here at Travel South. America has lost a lot of market share over the past 20 years, but we’ll catch up pretty quickly if we continue building on the things Brand USA is putting into place.”

Mac Lacy

Mac Lacy is president and publisher of The Group Travel Leader Inc. Mac has been traveling and writing professionally ever since a two-month backpacking trip through Europe upon his graduation with a journalism degree from the University of Evansville in 1978.