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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Travel and Tourism Industry Center


The results that we have achieved for our clients both domestically and internationally, have proven to be effective solutions, allowing these organizations to provide a better experience, while also improving revenue and overall business practices.

Current and Past Projects

The projects detailed below are just a sampling of the work that our researchers have performed by partnering with a variety of organizations, presented with unique business challenges.

In 2012, the Sloan Travel & Tourism Industry Center applied for a USAID University Engagement grant (unfunded) titled: A Trilateral Approach to Post-Conflict and Post-Disaster Tourism Development. The historic consortium proposal would bring the United States and China together to address tourism development issues in post-conflict and post-disaster states.

Preventing war is difficult; picking up the pieces perhaps more so. The latter requires knowledge, innovation, and problem-solving. We propose a consortium center offering a trilateral approach to post-conflict and post-disaster tourism development. Inherent in the proposed center's technical program is the concept of triangulation—problem-solving through cross-verification of data from two or more sources—in this case the United States, China, and conflict- and disaster-states. With this consortium center, triangulation can refer to methods, data, and investigators.

It is no revelation that superpowers compete—from resources and markets to image and influence—but can they cooperate and collaborate constructively around the globe to address Grand Challenges? Despite great capacity to deliver international aid, rarely do the United States and China work jointly toward a common, humanitarian goal. The proposed center provides an unprecedented opportunity to change that for the greater good. Via the center and its goals, the two countries could reach a far-ranging accord, using their economies of scale and capabilities as leading knowledge-producers in science, technology, and engineering to deliver assistance and innovation worldwide.

The University of South Carolina's Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Travel & Tourism Industry Center and Clemson University "s department of parks, recreation and tourism management are partnering to complete an economic-impact study of the 17 counties of the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor (SCNHC).

The SCNHC promotes economic development in rural areas of South Carolina through heritage tourism and is being developed by private citizens, governmental agencies, conservation groups, businesses and communities. Designated by Congress in 1996 as a National Heritage Area, the corridor runs from the foothills of Oconee County in the northwestern corner of the state, along the Savannah River, through the Edisto River Basin to the port city of Charleston.

"This partnership with Clemson University is just the beginning of what we can accomplish by working together: universities and businesses joining forces for the good of the state and sharing resources during these challenging economic times,” said Dr. Rich Harrill, director of the Sloan center.

The results will be shared with the National Park Service, South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, partners and potential funders.

The study will provide independently researched information on the value of the corridor's work toward the preservation, conservation and promotion of community resources and how effective this work has been in the development of heritage-based tourism. 

Managed by Dr. Robert Li, surveys and interviews will be conducted in major Chinese cities to determine why citizens want to come to the United States, what sites they're interested in seeing and how long they intend to visit this country. The project will also examine the cultural, social, economic and political conditions that will affect travel from China to the United States.

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) predicts that more than 100 million Chinese tourists will travel to other countries by 2020, making China the number one exporter of tourists. Currently, Chinese citizens are only able to visit countries with Approved Destination Status (ADS). Although the United States is rapidly moving toward establishing a formal ADS agreement, few businesses and destinations are adequately preparing for their arrival.

"This project is a landmark examination of the future, outbound Chinese tourism market for the United States,” said Dr. Rich Harrill, director of the Sloan Travel & Tourism Center. "This research is important to United States " competitiveness in the travel and tourism industry because it will help businesses and tourism destinations plan and benefit economically from this potentially significant market.”

This major research project was launched by the Alfred P. Sloan Travel & Tourism Industry Center at the University of South Carolina and the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI) to address the decrease in Japanese tourism to the United States. 

Managed by Dr. Robert Li, a center faculty associate, the study will provide insight into the reasons behind the decline of Japanese visitors to the U.S. and provide options for market recovery. The study will also focus on Japanese travel outside of Asia, such as where they "re visiting and why they "re choosing a particular destination, and how marketing to Japanese travelers can be improved.

OTTI statistics reveal that 3.7 million Japanese tourists visited the U.S. in 2006. They represent the fourth-largest tourism market for the U.S. behind Canada, Mexico and the U.K. In 2006, Japan "s visitors spent approximately $16.03 billion in the U.S. But, in 2006 the U.S. experienced a 5-percent decline in the Japanese market following years of impressive growth.

"In some respects, this project may be more important economically than the Chinese outbound project conducted last year by OTTI and Sloan, because it represents a major market that seems to be vanishing,” said Dr. Rich Harrill, director of the Sloan Travel & Tourism Center. "This research is important to the United States " competitiveness in the travel-and-tourism industry because it will help businesses and tourism destinations retain this economically significant market.”

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Travel & Tourism Industry Center partnered with the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) to produce the 2010 CEIR Index. Using the Index, an exhibition organizer can compare how particular show data compares to others in the same industry.  The Sloan Center provided the economic analysis for the Index.
The CEIR Index was developed to provide an objective measure of the annual performance of the exhibition industry The CEIR Index measures year-over-year changes in four key metrics:

  • Net Square Feet of Exhibit Space Sold
  • Professional Attendees
  • Exhibiting Companies
  • Total Event Gross Revenue

The results of these metrics’ performance were calculated from data provided from over 300 events, which were divided into 11 sectors.  The data was then aggregated by sector. The year-over-year changes were then translated into an “index value,” using a base value of 100 in the base year of 2000.  The 2010 CEIR Index displays and analyzes this data from 2000 through 2009.

This research partnership between The University of South Carolina "s Sloan Travel and Tourism Industry Center and the Center for Exhibition Industry Research found that companies spend less on exhibitions and tradeshows in recessionary and post-recessionary economies. Further, this research suggests that sales leads are becoming more difficult to generate. However, some industry experts suggest that sales leads generated through an exhibition have long-term value for companies as they weather an economic downturn.

A survey instrument was designed by the Sloan Travel & Tourism Industry Center to gather data on the cost effectiveness of exhibition participation. Firms with sales above $50 million were randomly selected for inclusion in the study. A telephone survey was then used to collect data concerning the effectiveness of exhibition participation.

The results indicated that it is more cost effective to close a sale when a prospect is first identified at an exhibition as compared to identifying a prospect via other methods.


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