Governor McMaster presents Tourism Student Awards

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO)- South Carolina college students excelling in culinary, hospitality or tourism majors accepted awards today outside the governor’s mansion on Arsenal Hill.

The students all had high GPAs and were nominated by faculty. They came from all across the state and plan to enter an industry which has bounced back after the pandemic.

“There are a lot of beautiful states. They have a lot of beautiful things to see, but I haven’t found one yet that even comes close to this one,” said Gov. Henry McMaster, who gave out the Tourism Student Awards.

It’s the job of the hospitality and tourism industry to show off the Palmetto State. 

“I’ve devoted my life to the hospitality industry and cannot imagine a rewarding career for myself,” said Douglas O’Flaherty, South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging director.

He was one of the speakers who addressed students recognized for excellence in their studies and are preparing to enter the field.

“It’s great to see these folks who are top of their class in tourism at a time when labor is a big issue for us. We need rising young stars and the talent you saw today is what that is. It’s a phenomenal time for them to be entering the industry,” said Duane Parrish, South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism director.

He would not have said the same thing 18 months ago.

“2020 was the worst year for the industry ever. 2021 may turn out to be a record year for South Carolina,” Parrish said.

Parrish says that beaches and golf courses are some of the state’s top attractions that enjoyed a bounce back year in 2021.

“Hotels filled up. Golf courses’ tee times filled up,” the tourism director said. “Restaurants started having waiting lines. People had cabin fever, money and were ready to come out.”

He reminds people that tourism in South Carolina is not just confined to the coastline.

“Think about equestrianism in Camden, Aiken and places like that.  Places in the upstate at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains along Highway 11 are phenomenal little towns,” Parrish said. “There’s a lot of tourism there that’s part of their local economy. There’s opportunities on the coast but also inland as well.”

All of this means plenty of opportunities for today’s recognized students. 

“People who choose the hospitality industry as a career are uniquely prepared and ready to make a difference in people’s lives,” O’Flaherty said. “The fact that you’re here today tells me that you’re one of those people.”

“We sell experiences. We sell places to eat, go and be entertained. It’s very exciting working in the tourism industry. There’s no dull moment in the day,” Parish concluded.

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