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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

Ashley Owens poses for a photo at an overlook on the Pacific Ocean.

Alumna Ashley Owens helping make “Yeah, THAT Greenville” a top destination

By Allen Wallace, awallace@sc.edu
Posted on October 3, 2019

Ashley Owens learned a difficult lesson early: there is no magic word or formula that brings instant success. Five years after graduating from the University of South Carolina, Owens is now sales manager for VisitGreenvilleSC, but it took patience and hard work to get there.

“Getting through college is a tedious act of being patient, driven and focused,” Owens says. “It doesn’t play out fast. Playing the long game, you have to be mindful and know that one day, all the hard work will be worth the reward of a degree and eventually a fulfilling job. Once you are in your career, you will find this situation playing out again.”

Owens is part of a team in Greenville, South Carolina, that has earned award after award for marketing, advertising and selling the city as a tourist destination. She decided after taking an undergraduate tourism class from UofSC College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management instructor Darron Kirkley that she wanted a career with a convention and visitors bureau. His advice helped her reach that goal.

If you aren’t sure which direction you want to go in, that’s okay. Go after your dreams and remember you don’t have to know the end goal right off the bat. Have a goal and be flexible. The journey, in this industry, is the destination!

— Ashley Owens, '14 hospitality management

“He guided me by giving me a better understanding of the path to getting a CVB sales job,” Owens says. “This path was often to start in hotel sales. I honestly didn’t love the idea of having to work one job to get another job, but I took his advice and it did lead me to my goal, while gaining invaluable experience along the way. Because of that path, I was better prepared for my role at the CVB.”

Understanding the long game continues to pay off for Owens in her current role. For all its success, the city only began advertising itself as a destination in 2012, and the “Yeah, THAT Greenville” brand is still in its infancy in many ways.

“The exciting part is we know we are just getting started,” Owens says. “The most important piece to this puzzle is building meaningful relationships first — which cannot be an overnight process or faked.”

Owens earned her degree from South Carolina’s hospitality and tourism management program, which is ranked No. 7 in the United States and No. 15 in the world. She says her favorite part of working in the tourism industry is the impact she makes on the local economy of the destination she represents.

“For my career specifically (convention and visitors bureau), the path of helping to build destination awareness which leads to visitor spending, helping to sustain and create hospitality jobs and opportunities for the community, is so rewarding,” she says. “This industry is not only rewarding and fun, but a place where you will meet lifelong connections who span the nation or even a global scale!”

Asked for advice for current students considering a career in hospitality/tourism, Owens says the industry is booming and offers many different career options (restaurants, food services, transportation companies, tourism companies, unique venues — just to name a few) and the chance to change paths along the way.

“If you aren’t sure which direction you want to go in, that’s okay,” she says. Go after your dreams and remember you don’t have to know the end goal right off the bat. Have a goal and be flexible. The journey, in this industry, is the destination!”

Learn more about UofSC's hospitality and tourism management degrees here.


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