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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

A Letter from the Director

Lori Pennington-Gray headshot


Dear Friends and Partners, 

Welcome to The Richardson Family SmartState Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Tourism. The Center was funded and established in 2010 as the first endowed SmartState Center related to economic development and tourism at the University of South Carolina. SmartState Tourism aims to conduct research that is directly applicable to tourism in South Carolina, U.S.A., and destinations throughout the world. Tourism in South Carolina is responsible for more than $17 billion dollars in spending annually and employs approximately 10% of the state's workforce. The Center's vision is to be the leading center for relevant, timely and cutting edge research in tourism and destination management throughout the world. 

I am extremely excited to lead this Center of Excellence in Economic Development and Tourism in the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management (HRSM).

Our top five goals are:

  • Become a one-stop resource of relevant data and research related to tourism and hospitality for the South Carolina tourism industry.

  • Help guide public and private sector policies through academic consulting that will lead to improved tourism planning and development in South Carolina.

  • Disseminate research via speaking engagements, conferences, research seminars, the website, newsletters, social networking, and marketing.

  • Provide training and education for domestic and international leaders and scholars in various areas of excellence in the tourism industry.

  • Act as a think tank for both applied and academic tourism-related research.

Over the next year, we will build our five year plan. We will conduct a strategic planning session with industry members, hire Ph.D. students, hire a program coordinator and build an infrastructure to move forward. I am looking forward to working with our faculty, students, administrators and advisory board. It is my great honor to lead this premier center. I am excited to see where we go in the next five years. Please stay safe and please do not hesitate to reach out. I would love to meet and chat with each and every one of you!

Go Gamecocks, 

Signature of Lori Pennington-Gray, Ph.D.

Lori Pennington-Gray, Ph.D.
Endowed Professor and Director
The Richardson Family SmartState Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Tourism



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