VisitGreenvilleSC CEO, Chris Stone, to retire at end of year

VisitGreenvilleSC (VGSC) introduced that Chris Stone, the group’s president and CEO, will retire from VGSC, efficient December 31, 2020. Stone has served in his present position since being recruited in 1996, for what was then referred to as the Greenville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“Playing an active role in Greenville’s destination emergence during the past twenty years has been unbelievably rewarding. Visitors find a genuine surprise and delight with their experience here, which is a salute to our masterfully played out urban plan. To have become a place that few could have imagined is an achievement beyond description. Thank you, Greenville!” stated Stone.

From the press launch;

It’s not shocking Chris Stone’s favourite profession quote was from Max Heller, “What has impressed me most is you were bragging (about Greenville) before we had anything to brag about.” When Chris joined in 1996, there was no Falls Park, no Liberty Bridge, no public artwork and no RiverPlace. Downtown was but to be featured and celebrated as the highest tourism vacation spot it’s as we speak. During his 24 years, Chris constantly demonstrated how ardour, curiosity, and an infectious imaginative and prescient can remodel a company and elevate a group. Chris championed each effort to discover methods to make huge desires a actuality, and has been influential in bringing to life the signature experiences individuals admire most about Greenville. Mayor Knox White stated, “Chris saw the potential of Greenville as a visitor destination years ago when so many did not. He played a major role in helping us realize that potential. We’ve come so far because of Chris’ vision and hard work. I always had a great partner in Chris. I especially appreciate that he saw the value of the river and all the things that make our city distinctive and attractive.”

Today, below Stone’s management, tourism has grown to be a $1.4 billion trade, welcoming greater than 5.5 million guests and group assembly occasions yearly. As the Greenville customer expertise started to emerge with the opening of Falls Park on the Reedy and the Liberty Bridge, restricted monetary sources impeded the flexibility to promote and unfold the phrase to entice guests. Stone led a dedication to funding that elevated funding from $50,000 to $4,000,000. The model “Yeah, That Greenville” was created. Aggressive promoting and public relation efforts captured the eye of guests and the fascination of the press. Travel writers from The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler and others have showered Greenville with each press and best-of accolades. The model has additionally served as a complimentary “halo effect” for broader financial improvement progress (new enterprise start-ups, expertise recruitment, relocations) all through the realm.

Carl Sobocinski of Table 301 Restaurant Group had this to say, “Chris leaves a lasting legacy here in Greenville. Prior to his watch, we were just one of 36 Greenville’s, now we’re THAT Greenville with a booming leisure tourism industry supporting the entire hospitality, culinary, and arts communities. Hospitality will thrive for years to come thanks to the foundation laid under his leadership.”

Stone’s affect was felt virtually instantly upon his arrival in 1996. Serving as tour information and imagineer, Stone organized journeys for Greenville’s leaders to expertise and perceive the magic occurring in rising locations throughout the nation and abroad. Visits had been made to Austin, Portland, Chattanooga, Birmingham, England; and Valencia, Spain. These hands-on studying excursions had been instrumental in Greenville’s Main Street evolution, sparking concepts and initiatives to improve downtown’s persona, envision new downtown points of interest and outline a technique to develop conferences and conventions.

Stone’s affect kick-started a wave of public artwork installations that now exists group large. In 1999, Stone co-led the “Reedy River Corridor Vision Plan,” which included suggestions on Falls Park, RiverPlace and launched the visionary “Emerald Necklace” idea that may join Cleveland Park to Falls Park to Unity Park. The plan additionally paved the way in which for what’s turn out to be the Swamp Rabbit Trail, Fluor Field, Heritage Green, amongst others.

“The impact of Chris Stone’s work for this City will be enjoyed for a very long time. Chris and the team he put together put us on many lists that inspired untold numbers of people to get their first taste of Greenville. Always creative and always working,” stated Bob Hughes, Chairman Hughes Development Corporation.

By 2005, the Greenville expertise, which included the brand new Falls Park, had turn out to be a narrative price selling. Chris started crafting a technique to increase advertising and marketing funds to promote Greenville. In 2006, after internet hosting 50 {couples} from Atlanta to spend the weekend in Greenville, 100% of attendees stated they’d extremely advocate to others a go to to Greenville, SC. This was proof of idea, inspiring the boldness that led to a dedication from native inns and a state match grant for advertising and marketing funding. “Chris’ extraordinary ability to work with our elected leaders, to educate them on the importance of investing in tourism and his persistence to secure funding to tell Greenville’s story is a huge part of the reason so many come here. I’ve been fortunate to meet people from all over the country and when I ask what brought them here, they reply they’ve heard so much; they just had to see it for themselves,” stated Rick Erwin, Owner/Founder Rick Erwin Dining Group.

Chris’ persistence helped flip a small metropolis in South Carolina with no seaside or main points of interest right into a tourism Cinderella story. With wind within the sails, a primary ever Greenville vacation spot model was launched remodeling Chis’ as soon as underfunded, underutilized guests and conventions bureau right into a Go toGreenvilleSC gross sales and advertising and marketing tour de pressure.  Between 2011 and 2019 resort occupancy moved from 61% week-day to 66% and weekend occupancy moved from 59% to 71%, indicating that Greenville had turn out to be a spot for each enterprise and leisure journey. Tourism in Greenville is now a $1.4 billion enterprise, producing $81.2M in state/native tax income and 11,100 jobs yearly.

Butch Kirven, Chairman, Greenville County Council admires how Stone was at all times in a position to outsmart change. “Chris’s remarkable ability to adapt and adjust to changes in market conditions over the past 20 years helped Greenville to thrive in the good times and survive in the tough times. Chris deserves a lion’s share of credit for the phenomenal growth of the tourism and meetings travel sector of our economy in Greenville County.”

“Transformation and growth are part of Chris’ DNA. He is just wired to imagine better – as a place, as a people, and as individuals. As for Chris’s encore, I can’t wait to see Chris Stone 2.0. You can bet it will make a difference for someone somewhere that will change how they see themselves and their surroundings forever. I am so grateful for all he has inspired in me and our team. We will miss him,” stated Jennifer Stilwell, EVP/Chief Strategic Officer.

Looking forward, CEO, Dave Edwards (VGSC Board Chairman and President/CEO Greenville-Spartanburg Airport District) stated “I have the utmost respect for Chris and the accomplishments he and VGSC achieved over his 24 year career with the organization. His dedication to VGSC and Greenville has been extraordinary; I have known Chris to want nothing but the best for our community. Under Chris’ leadership, VGSC has been able to help put Greenville on the map both domestically and internationally. On behalf of the VGSC Board of Directors, I want to thank Chris for all he has done. Chris leaves us with big shoes to fill that will take time, careful consideration and a process that the Executive Committee will be a part of. It is our goal to have new leadership in place by May 1, 2021.”

Duane Parrish, Director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT) added, “Chris has been a visionary leader for Greenville, an esteemed colleague among his tourism industry peers, and an invaluable partner to SCPRT. His life’s work is the remarkable transformation of Greenville’s urban landscape and his legacy is the dynamic economic success that Greenville has achieved through tourism growth. Although we will miss his partnership and counsel, we must concede that his retirement is well-earned and much-deserved, and we wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life.”