Inaugural conference makes Hilton Head center of sustainable resort development

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comApril 4, 2014 

This photo from 1969 shows Charles Fraser, right, with Harbour Town Golf Links course designers Pete Dye, left, and Jack Nicklaus.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FRASER FAM — Photo courtesy of the Fraser family

  • Conference details

    The University of South Carolina Beaufort will host its inaugural Charles E. Fraser Sustainable Resort Development Conference this spring.

    • Date: May 6 and 7
    • Place: Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island
    • Who: The conference is open to anyone interested in this topic; early registration before April 20 is $199.
    • To register: uscb.edu/fraserconf

Developer Charles Fraser was largely responsible for transforming Hilton Head Island into a resort community decades ago.

Now, the University of South Carolina Beaufort wants to revive his vision and spirit of innovation with its inaugural Charles E. Fraser Sustainable Resort Development Conference.

The conference will be May 6 and 7 at the Sea Pines Resort, the 5,200-acre gated community that Fraser began developing in the 1950s on the southern tip of the island. The conference will focus on the issues and challenges of sustainable resort development.

"Charles Fraser was a man far before his time in terms of resort development and what it should be environmentally," said Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Charlie Clark. "We applaud USCB for their effort to continue that commitment and build awareness for sustainability in the tourism community."

According to USCB hospitality professor John Salazar, developing sustainable resorts must involve three things: community well-being, environmental well-being and economic well-being. The conference will have various seminars around topics such as water quality, land management and the future of sustainable tourism.

USCB hopes to have about 100 hospitality professionals and researchers from the Southeast at the conference. This will be one of the first sustainability conferences in South Carolina to focus solely on resort development, according to Salazar.

"We have learned that there's not one silver bullet that resolves the sustainability question," Salazar said. "So the more we talk about these various perspectives on sustainability, it increases and enhances our understanding and ability to go forward."

The university received a $9,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry to organize the conference, which USCB hopes will become an annual event.

In addition to the foundation and USCB, other event sponsors include the Lowcountry and Resort Island Tourism Institute, The Sea Pines Resort, Clemson University, the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and Vagabond Cruise.

The conversations and ideas that come out of this conference can make for a stronger and more dynamic community, Salazar said.

"We hope this conference leads to actionable thought," he said, "and even more, actionable actions to better the Lowcountry."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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